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Film Reviews > First Man

8.7
Categories  Action | Drama | Adventure Reviews with  Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Pablo Schreiber Release Date  12th Oct 2018  Filmography

This movie describes the life of the astronaut Neil Armstrong (played brilliantly by the reliable Ryan Gosling). Concentrating on the unbelievable and exciting space mission that made him the first man to walk on the Moon. What a super cast: the wonderful Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong, Pablo Schreiber as Jim Lovell, Christopher Abbott as Dave Scott, Ethan Embry as Pete Conrad, Ciaran Hinds as Robert Gilruth, Jason Clarke as Edward Higgins White, the versatile Kyle Chandler as Deke Slayton, the in form Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin, Shea Whigham as Gus Grissom, Patrick Fugit as Elliott See, Lukas Haas as Mike Collins, Cory Michael Smith as Roger Chaffee, Brady Smith as Butch Butchart and Olivia Hamilton as Pat White.

We see a pilot in a super fast plane leaving the atmosphere. It appears to be a test flight. The pilot looks stressed, he's not sure if he's going to make it. The pilot is Neil Armstrong (played superbly by Ryan Gosling).

"From the get go the sound design is spectacular and the shaky cam inside the cockpit makes you feel like your there. The audience feels every jolt and movement. It's a bone rattling experience!"
The plane appears to rise and rise above the atmosphere which is dangerous. You see the round earth from afar. Finally, after some last minute clever maneuvers he eventually manages to dive back down to earth.

He passes some mountains and valleys and crash lands on a desert plain. What a sequence! After scenes like this you know your in for a thrill ride. A Mission Officer says to Neil that it's his third mishap this month and that he should be grounded. Back at his house, Neil plays with his baby daughter Karen.

Neil's daughter has a tumour and soon she will pass on. Next we sadly see her funeral. Neil cries in a very intense sentimental moment. Great acting by Gosling. One of the many quiet moments were Gosling typifies Neil Armstrong's reserved character.

Back in the office he finds out he's grounded. He has to write up his Pilot's report from the previous mission. Then there is an astronaut selection program by NASA. Neil says in his interview that this mission "allows us to see things that we should we should have seen a long time ago". The officers seem impressed.

The officers get personal and ask him whether his daughters passing will have an effect on him. He replies very sternly "It might have an affect". Gosling's acting is subtle but powerful, particularly in this scene when he looks at that interviewer right in the eye when saying this. What a performance by Gosling. NASA calls him up later and he accepts. He was with his wife Janet (played excellently by Claire Foy) at the time and she says "You'll be an avenger".

I love the fact that the movie takes you inside NASA headquarters for the tuition of the astronauts. In the first lecture they explain that they want to go to the moon and not just a great distance from earth. As a precursor mission they want to leave earth with two ships. Then the two ships would dock together outside the earth.

As part of his training Neil gets in a rotating training device (at speed) that is supposed to make you pass out. This scene is cool and it makes you realise the lengths these astronauts go through to prepare for the real thing. I've seen this device before in other movies, I get a headache just seeing someone in it! Neil ends up puking, as do the other astronauts hehe.

In another lecture they show him a 1000 page user manual of the space crafts hehe. It's quite daunting the amount of information these guys have to learn. Back at home Neil dances with his wife in a very romantic scene. Once again, a quiet scene but beautifully shot and the silence gives the audience time to think. The two are still very much in love.

Neil and the other crew and their wives have a dinner, they laugh and carry on. On TV they see that the Russians have carried out yet another successful mission. This makes the crew angry and motivated. Later, Ed (played by Jason Clarke), visits Neil's house and tells him the bad news about Elliot (a fellow astronaut). Elliot and his crew crash landed and theyt didn't make it.

They go to the funeral of Elliot and the others and discuss in heated arguments what went wrong. Buzz Aldrin played brilliantly by Corey Stoll states his case making Neil angry. Buzz makes his feelings known through out the film, quite the contrast to Neil's composed self. At the funeral Neil sees a baby girl (reminding him of his baby girl Karen) and it makes him uncomfortable.

He gets in his car and leaves the funeral quickly by himself leaving his wife and kids behind. Ed chats to a heart broken Neil outside his house. Neil says he just wants to be left alone.

"This is true resilience if you ask me. Not only did Neil Armstrong go through deep personal loss with his daughter's passing but fellow astronauts were perishing around him. His determination was unbelievable. He was never erratic or furious and I believe this meditative stable state of mind allowed him to move forward"

Next it was Neil's chance to go on a test voyage with a companion astronaut. There is a fly buzzing around inside the cockpit hehe. Neil swats it. The camera is right in the cockpit. Put that together with loud realistic sounds and you have an exhilerating scene. It's bone rattling as usual! We see the Pod floating on top of the earth. "Jimmy 8 is now in Orbit" says the Houston (Texas) control centre.

Neil's Pod has to meet/dock with the second craft (the Agina). Beautiful scenes in outer space, you see mainly darkness except for part of the earth with it's atmosphere. They successfully dock!!! But... Neil has problems with his pod, it cycles out of control! Once again the sound design and the cinema speakers provide an unbelievable cinematic experience. The shaky cam and sound actually makes you feel tense, wow!

Neil says he's separated from the Agina (the second craft). He's free falling, going round and round. It looks extremely dangerous, he could have lost consciousness and lost control but I guess this is where his training kicks in. He slowly gets back control of the craft.

Back on earth Neil's wife Janet gets angry and wants answers. She marches up to Mission Control and says they really don't know what is going on. Neil then arrives back safely to earth. There is a post mission conference and Neil answers questions. The media people question the mission and the amount of money spent etc. But, the mission was mainly a success and so NASA wants Neil at the whitehouse.

Ed joins the next appollo mission team and is congratulated by Neil. Neil is at home with his family, all smiles.

"Neil and his wife and kids are happy in this scene. Scenes like this are quite simple and the audience feels good for Neil considering the intensity of the job at hand. How could he possibly stay a family man during all this you wonder"

There are three astronauts in the next mission (Ed, Gus and Roger). There was a terrible fire in the cockpit. All three pass away. It's very sad. You realise that there is a high risk for every mission. Back at the Whitehouse Neil hears the bad news.

"He is extremely shocked and tense. He breaks a wine glass in his hand and bleeds. He is clearly shaken. Ryan Gosling excels in tense moments like these. There is art in this type of subtle acting"

There was a lot of tragedy that Neil Armstrong experienced around him and he showed unbelievable strength. After another failed training sequence he says "We need to fail down here so we don't fail up there". "At what cost?" says a NASA officer, Neil replies "It's a little too late to ask that".

"Your dad's going to the Moon" says Janet. Her son dismisses that and says "ok, can I go outside?" hehe. There is a press conference about the Apollo Moon Mission. Once again Buzz Aldren is funny and outgoing, the opposite of Neil. Neil is very reserved compared to the other astronauts. He is composed, determined and not easily flustered. He answers the press in a very direct manner, no nonsense. Gosling most certainly researched Neil Armstrong and hence his performance feels very real.

Neil is packing his things, his wife Janet shouts at him. She's furious because he just wants to pack and not say his final farewell to his boys. There is a chance that he won't be back of course. Finally he speaks to his boys. "We have every intention of coming back". He hugs his smallest son and his eldest son shakes his hand. It's a beautiful scene with little emotion shown by Neil considering that he might not see them again. I guess that he had a lot on his mind and the part of his brain associated with compassion was turned off.

The Moon Mission rocket is stationed at Cape Kennedy Florida. The rocket launch was awesome to watch and it seems 100% realistic with great camera angles close up and from afar. You see the cockpit pod above the earth as the rocket shaft dismantles. The astronauts play music inside the craft on a tape player hehe. The pod gets closer to the Moon at speed. These scenes are brilliantly shot, wow! Mission control says it's ok to land. The landing is tricky, they had to find an appropriate place without spending too much fuel. Neil says "The Eagle has landed".

Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins prepare Neil for his space walk. They open the hatch. The audience gasped! There is silence, sounds are slowly heard. What brilliant use of silence! Then we hear those famous words "That's one small step for man... one giant leap for humanity"! The moon landscape looks spectacular, great set design, it practically is the moon! It's spectacular seeing Neil in his suit walking on the moon surface.

Neil thinks of his daughter as he looks at the moon surface. It's a touching moment. He leaves his daughters bracelet on the moon. It is a memorable scene. I guess at this point he's thinking about everything that he's gone through to make it this far. It has been an intense few years with this as the climax.

Great eerie soundtrack as they leave the Moon. The landing was broadcast on TV. Millions watched. "Man in his quest for progress cannot be dettered... we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things not because they are easy but because they are hard" says president Kennedy. Neil, Buzz and Michael are quarantined. In a beautiful moment Janet visits Neil and they both touch the glass that separates them.

For Neil Armstrong to have succeeded he needed to be 100% focused and determined. He was extremely intelligent and gifted, I guess like most astronauts. Neil had a high intelligence and his brain was able to hold vasts amounts of information.

"To be an astronaut you have to be physically and mentally fit and have resilience. I think Ryan Gosling captured this in his portrayal of Neil and then some. Neil Armstrong showed precision and composure up there in space and it may have been because on earth he was also composed and precise"

Claire Foy as Neil's wife Janet puts in a powerful performance. She was more vocal than Neil and was trying to keep her family together whilst staying strong for Neil. Claire Foy had some riveting scenes. The most memorable was when she shouted loudly at Neil because she wanted him to farewell his sons. There was so much realism in that scene, wow.

"Both Claire Foy and Ryan Gosling may be up for Oscar nominations, let's hope so. How many times did the audience gasp and have their mouth open during this movie? Several times! Clearly an innovative cinematic experience"
What an enthralling 2hrs 21min.

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