First Man is an American biographical drama film based on the book ‘First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong’ by James R. Hansen. The film follows astronaut, aeronautical engineer and naval aviator, Neil Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling during the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
It is a known fact that Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, however First Man dives deeper, going back a few years to showcase the obstacles, trials, struggles and sacrifices many made prior to that history changing moment in 1969. The film makes it evident that without all these pioneers, Neil may have never walked the moon that day.
While the cast were consistent, there was no real stand out performance. I also found the narrative rather lackluster regarding Neil Armstrong’s personal life and relationship with his family, specifically his daughter. I am the type to cry in films and while First Man is quite detailed with the attempts by NASA, the relationship with Neil’s daughter felt so underdeveloped that at a pivotal scene where I know I was meant to be moved, my eyes were dry.
In comparison, the scenes with the astronauts during NASA‘s multiple projects made my heart race which I enjoyed. However, I felt cheated when the film didn’t show Armstrong‘s journey coming back from the moon. The film went from showing scenes of Armstrong finally walking on the moon to suddenly being back on Earth weeks after the event unfolded. I hated that. I wanted to experience the journey home. I wanted to see the reaction of the world once these heroes returned and landed. The film showed neither.
I found the costuming and set designs really fascinating. I loved seeing the old bulky space suits. But mostly, I loved how the props reminded us how basic technology was back then. Somehow with this technology, humanity still managed to successfully go to space and walk the moon. Looking back, it really is quite mind blowing.
The film had its lunar sequences shot with IMAX film cameras which is purposely intended to create a differentiation between the scenes on Earth and in space. But the space scenes are such a short sequences, I would only really suggest seeing the film in IMAX if you really want the full experience of the film the way it was attended to be seen.
First Man reminded me of my love for space exploration which I had always been fascinated about as a kid. I liked how the film made use of real original footage of the moon launch and how the film impressively showcases the struggles by NASA. Some impressive scenes were shown in camera angles that made it seem like you were the astronaut and experiencing the missions first hand. Although the family scenes were extremely disappointing, the film itself is still good and a loving tribute to the brave astronaut. So if you love Ryan Gosling, science, space exploration and history, I would highly recommend seeing this film. Although First Man is far from perfect, I still really did enjoy it.