“First Man” takes place in the 1960s during the Space Race between America and Soviet Russia. After the death of his 2-year-old daughter, NASA pilot Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) applies for NASA’s upcoming spaceflight program: Project Gemini, a project that aims to put a man on the moon. To achieve this, Armstrong is going to have to balance raising a family with his NASA life—and in a project that will require numerous trials, testing and unfortunate losses, it’s not going to be easy. The film also stars Claire Foy, Jason Clark, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, and Christopher Abbott.
Based on the book “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong” by James R. Hansen, “First Man” focuses on Armstrong’s life during the 60s as he works with NASA to make it to the moon. The acting is fantastic; everybody among the cast gives an A+ performance. The highlights of the film for me is any scene where the characters are in space. I also have to commend the film for how it handles the dark side of Project Gemini’s story. Anyone familiar with the history of the Space Race is aware of NASA’s losses during the T-38 Crash of 1966, and the tragic deaths of Apollo 1’s crew—Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee—in 1967.
There’s a feeling of claustrophobia in the movie whenever the characters are put into a confining spaceship and looking out a window into the black abyss. “First Man” really hammers the feeling of isolation when you’re out in space; because if anything goes wrong, you’re on your own. However, the movie also captures the sense of wonder when it comes to space travel—when the characters are looking up from the ground, to when they’re looking down from the sky. However, it can get a bit dizzying during some scenes. As a warning, if scenes of spinning objects or shaky camerawork cause you illness or trigger vertigo, I would highly advise you avoid this one as even I got disoriented at times.
Despite its many perks, the film suffers from a glaring flaw. While it focuses on one of history’s most important individuals, the film got a tad dull at times. Not to mention, for a movie that’s around two and a half hours long, the parts where they’re ON the moon felt like they needed more fleshing out. Sure, we get the famous “One small step for man” scene, but I was itching to see how the whole mission played out. We don’t even see them plant the flag on the moon. Plus, it all concludes with a rather anti-climactic ending that left me more confused than fulfilled.
“First Man” is rated PG-13 for some thematic content involving peril, along with brief strong language. Compared to other biographical films focusing on great figures in history like “Darkest Hour” or “The Theory of Everything,” “First Man” comes off as a fair attempt, but it’s long length and somewhat tedious storytelling harm it. There were one too many moments where I was stopping to check the time, and that’s not something you want your audience doing. If you’re someone who’s interested in learning more about Neil Armstrong’s life, or a fan of the Space Race, you should get enough enjoyment from this film. If you’re just curious, however, I would pass. The final score for “First Man” is a 7.5 out of 10.
Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. He currently serves as a Journalist and Copy Editor to the Coastal Breeze News and is working on becoming a Published Author.