‘First Man’ film review
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
Almost 50 years ago on July 20, 1969, the entire world watched on their television sets as history was being made when Apollo 11 landed on the moon for the first time. This was even a moment that caused CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite to cry. More history was made when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon’s surface and said the famous lines, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Since John F. Kennedy announced that the US was sending astronauts to the moon, the entire journey to that point included a lot of challenges and risks. We get to experience these struggles thanks to the film First Man and its unlikely director, Damien Chazelle. He is the same person who made musical films like Whiplash and La La Land.
First Man begins with Neil Armstrong’s daughter, Karen, passing away from brain cancer. This impacts Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) when he joins the Gemini Program to develop technology, which is used to send astronauts to the moon to beat the Soviet Union in a race to get there first. While they do make progress, it has a lot of casualties. In the first mission in the Apollo program one of Armstrong’s closest friends, Ed White (Jason Clarke), and two other astronauts are burned in a fire during pre-flight testing. This worries Armstrong’s wife, Janet (Claire Foy), who believes her husband will not survive the mission. Many people protest that the mission is a waste of money during an important moment in American history. However, everyone changes their mind when the first images of Armstrong walking on the moon are shown to the world.
The movie was shot on film to reflect the era in which it takes place. There are a lot of handheld camera movements that make it feel like you are part of the mission, especially if you watch the film in IMAX. During the scenes when they test the capsules, the sound system is very loud, and the heavy shaking might cause you to be as dizzy as the astronauts. The score of the film by is Chazelle’s frequent collaborator, Justin Hurwitz, and makes me think of Hurwitz doing his take on scores by Hans Zimmer. Hurtwitz’s touches in his scores remind me of the score in La La Land. Also, the film shows the characters liking songs in musicals which were very big in the 1960s.
The scene when the crew lands on the moon is as epic as every other grand scene in space films. The only scene in the movie that was filmed in IMAX, where Armstrong walks on the moon, allows you to explore the atmosphere with the same timing as it was happening. The film also addresses the US government’s privacy in not telling the public details of a situation, which was also a topic in last year’s film The Post.
You will love the movie if you are a fan of Ryan Gosling. Corey Stoll’s portrayal of Buzz Aldrin—the second person who walked on the moon—shows that he was very excited about the mission.
Getting to a historic moment must include many failures on the ground before it succeeds, as Armstrong’s mission demonstrates.