By Garrett Cecere
Upon hearing that there was going to be a film about Neil Armstrong, I was a bit surprised when I realized there haven’t been any movies about him that I had heard of before.
Director Damien Chazelle takes a distinct approach with “First Man” by giving us a look at not just the story of NASA’s accomplishment, but by also telling the story of Armstrong’s life throughout the 1960s and the personal struggles he faces, which culminate in the mission that completed the goal set by the U.S. in the beginning of the decade.
The film starts out with a somber tone, as it presents a different side of Armstrong’s life that I never even knew about. In the beginning, Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his family are coping with their young daughter’s cancer diagnosis. When you see the struggle behind Armstrong’s motivation to accomplish such a life-changing mission, you feel more of a connection to the man behind the spacesuit.
Gosling gives a very subdued portrayal of Armstrong, remaining quiet and humble many of his scenes. Claire Foy is also very convincing as Armstrong’s wife, Janet. Foy manages to convey the fear of not knowing if she would see her husband again all while having to continue to raise her family.
The best aspect of the film, by far, is the moon mission itself. The film needed to deliver a convincing takeoff and moon landing, and the special effects do not disappoint. When you see the launch sequence you feel like you’re on a roller coaster. The camera is shaking, the sound is loud and you’re stiff in your seat.
The film excels on a technical level. I loved how it gets so loud when the rocket is launched and then falls dead silent when they’re on the moon, which captures the authenticity of the vacuum of space.
Justin Hurwitz, who composed the incredible score for “La La Land,” unites with Chazelle once again to give viewers great music. At various points throughout the score, you can hear the sadness, thrill and sense of awe during each scene.
“First Man” takes an interesting and emotional look at Armstrong’s personal and professional life, and delivers a captivating depiction of one of our country’s proudest moments in history.