Review: First Man

One small step.

First Man follows astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) as prepares for his life changing mission of being the first man to walk on the moon. We see his work life with several colleagues/friends and his home life with wife Janet.(Claire Foy) The film follows him between 1961-1969.

I had really low expectations. Despite adoring director Damien Chazelle's Whiplash and La La Land, it wasn't until everyone started raving about Claire Foy that I even considered seeing this. 

In terms of story, it really surprised me. First Man is a very interesting film that takes space travel and what NASA did very, very seriously. They don't sugar coat a thing. They show the dangers of space travel, one could argue that this film as a whole is more about how you deal with death than anything else. It also manages to put you on the edge of your seat even though you know the outcome. I always appreciate when a film based on a true story can do that. But there is one thing that's working against this movie...

It's director Damien Chazelle.

The way he shot this film is atrocious. And it's 100% on him, cinematographer Linus Sandgren hasn't abused this technique before. The majority of this film is shot up close. He was like Tom Hooper shooting Les Miserables on steroids. Had it not been for a few sequences beautifully blended with music, I never would've guessed Chazelle was behind this. It was awful. I don't even buy the excuse of the director wanting you to feel like you're there. No one gets this close to people on a day to day basis. I was sitting in the last row of the theater and I wished I could've stood back further. The best shots of the film are when they do take a step back, but that happens a total of three or four times.

And it's a shame Chazelle chose this method of shooting, because his cast are giving excellent performances. Foy is as good as everyone is saying, though I expected her character to have a bit more to do. Gosling as always is very good. Jason Clarke is another who gives a very strong performance, and they deserved a director who didn't turn his camera into a stage five clinger.

I'll be shocked if this film doesn't take home the sound Oscars. It's incredible, sound mixing and editing isn't something I always notice right away but this one I didn't instantly.

A couple asides - Why does NASA have the shittiest bathrooms ever? And is it just me or is the Armstrong's youngest child treated as an afterthought? Especially when Neil is on the moon thinking about his past? 

Recommended: Yes 

Grade: C+ (this would've been higher minus the directing)

Memorable Quote: "You're going to do that. Not me. I'm done." - Janet (Claire Foy)

14 comments:

  1. "stage five clinger" lol I quite liked the close-ups of Gosling, but even I thought I could see his brain through his nostrils. XD I wish the cinematography and script had been richer. Nice review!

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    1. Lol but sometimes it's nice to standback and admire.

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  2. I don't mind the close-ups since it does play into the claustrophobic feel of what it's like inside a space capsule. It definitely felt like you're in there and it's cramped up and shit.

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    1. I'd get that if it was only on the capsule but it was EVERYWHERE.

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  3. Ouch. But I knew you weren't a big, big fan of Chazelle's style here. I did love it. I felt it put a lot on his actors not just through dialogue but through expression as well.

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    1. I think it bothered me even more because Whiplash and La La Land were both so great. Whiplash especially is one of my favorite films. I never expected to dislike something he did this much.

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  4. I had/have zero desire to see this, and I LOVE Gosling. The trailer and marketing just bored me. Your review is interesting with how it was directed (yikes), but I'm still gonna skip this one...

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    1. I HATE how he directed this so much! It's frustrating. lol

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  5. Yeah this looks super boring to me. And I hated cinematography in Les Mis so that's not encouraging :)

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    1. I'm pretty sure you will hate this movie for exactly that reason lol. Story wise it is good, but Chazelle ruined it.

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  6. Yeah, the trailers didn't do much for me, despite me similarly loving Chazelle's previous work, but I still held out hope. Turns out, those trailers were actually a pretty accurate depiction of the movie, which really wasn't up to Chazelle's usual standard. Whoops, lol. Nice review, Brittani. :)

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  7. Aw, I'm sorry you didn't like it! I didn't think they abused the close-ups outside of the cockpit sequences, but then I was so taken with the performances that I wasn't really thinking much about the camera placement in the character scenes lol. It just really enveloped me from the first and never let me go.

    So glad you liked Foy, though. I don't understand people blaming her for the way the part is written - she does great things with it. I have taken to using the "You're just a bunch of boys" line whenever people at work disagree with me lol. They don't get it, but I don't care.

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    1. lol I don't get why she would get any blame for that? She didn't write it. She was the highlight for me.

      I wish I hadn't noticed the close ups either lol

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