A view at the life of Neil Armstrong and the mission that led to him becoming the first man to walk on the moon.
Great Camera Work;
Some Overdone Direction;
Lack of Editing.
Behind the scenes, technical aspects of movies will trump the content/story on a common occurrence, for me. The whole time I was watching First Man, I was thoroughly impressed with the technical achievements, the acting, the directing…yet I was continually humdrum in my reaction to what I was seeing. I have not decided whether this was a matter of situational experience, or that the story, the content and the movie as a whole did not connect with me.
From the first frame, the outstanding direction is present. Fittingly shot on film, giving the screen a grainy touch, combined with the (over)use of handheld shots, the viewer feels as if they are living in the time, even if they hadn’t. Damien Chazelle brings a calm confidence to this movie, and I wonder if the calmness would be there without his rousing success in the past year with his Oscar-winning film La La Land.
The direction is stellar, but there are also questionable choices that were made. Holding onto scenes works well sometimes, but for others, it takes away from the impact. While this would normally be an editing issue, in First Man these problems arise throughout the run-time, making me believe there was a directorial decision somewhere along the line. Most of the film is shown in close ups of the characters and in tight, confined spaces. This is an aspect of the direction that adds to the suspense of the film and are greatly appreciated. Time and care was obviously taken into account when filming this movie.
The scenes inside of the spacecrafts and of space travel were very engaging. Not only was the score of this film an absolute highlight, the sound editing/design itself was magnificent. The bass shook and rattled my seat as if I was sitting in a D-Box chair; the camera matched this, putting you in the pilot’s seat. For this, Chazelle should be applauded and acknowledged. There is no doubt in my mind that he studied Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar front to back, over and over, while preparing for this production. Chazelle ends this film with a bang; the moon landing is expertly crafted and a cinematic wonder…yet it drags on a bit too much.
First Man is a technical achievement, but does not deliver in enough facets to warrant a glowing review. The story is dull, the pacing is slow and more times than not you will find yourself bored. This is not a movie that I can faithfully recommend seeing in theaters to the average person. If you love Ryan Gosling, I would recommend it (but at that point, do you need my recommendation?). If you are a NASA or space fanatic, this would definitely be a movie to see on the largest screen possible.
Ryan Gosling is at the top of his already elite game, but Damien Chazelle, while noticeably talented, his effort felt lazy and sloppy. This movie could have used another edit, chopping down a very lengthy 141 minute run-time. There are wonderful aspects of this film, but they do not outweigh the sludge, keeping this film from flourishing.
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