On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong did what many had only considered a pipe dream when he became the first person to set foot on the moon. It was a moment that briefly unified the world in a collective state of awe. It is this sense of amazement that director Damien Chazelle successfully recaptures in First Man.
Whether it is the roar of the engines, the sound design in the film is fantastic, or the deafening silence employed in key moments, First Man is an immersive experience. Charting the events that led up to Armstrong’s (Ryan Gosling) monumental achievement, Chazelle paints a vibrant picture of a man who was a flawed at home, but a hero to a nation.
The space race between the United States and Russia has been well documented, and is a key component to the film, however, it is Armstrong’s personal life that makes First Man so captivating. Never fully taking the time to grieve the loss of a child, Armstrong threw himself into his work, slowly shutting out his wife Janet (Claire Foy) in the process. Balancing the rising marital tension with the immense governmental pressure to be first on the moon, the film is endlessly fascinating.
Subtly showing the turbulent times of the era, in which the civil rights movement and combating poverty were deemed more important than “white men going to space”, Chazelle’s film effectively forces audiences to ponder the extensive cost, both human and societal, that went into achieving the mission.
A riveting film from both a narrative and technical standpoint, First Man should be viewed on the biggest screen possible.
Saturday, September 15, 6 PM, Scotiabank
Saturday, September 15, 9:30 PM, Princess of Wales
Sunday, September 16, 6 PM, Scotiabank