HomeMoviesFirst Man: A Thrilling Trip to the Moon

First Man: A Thrilling Trip to the Moon

First Man
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures/DreamWorks

First Man Plot Summary:

NASA conducts years of tests to ultimately put Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his fellow astronauts on the Moon. As the danger of the tests becomes increasingly apparent, Armstrong’s job put an enormous emotional strain on Neil and his family.

You’ve probably never considered it, but cinema and outer space are unmistakably linked. Whether it’s sci-fi movies like Star Wars or real stories like Apollo 13, filmmakers and audiences can’t get enough of space. You can go even further back and find films like A Trip to the Moon (one of the silent films professors are basically required to talk about in film history class). First Man is therefore continuing a proud tradition.

First Man takes an interesting approach to the first Moon landing. While you might think a movie about Neil Armstrong would be triumphant, First Man is somber in tone. Apollo 11, the famous mission where things went right, was built off of missions where things went wrong. Of course, this won’t be a surprise if you’ve seen any of the trailers. First Man is exactly the movie you think it’s going to be, down to the emotional beats.

However, it’s not bad that the movie is what you expect. In age where many trailers falsely built up our hopes, it’s a relief to have a film deliver what it advertises. The execution is on point, thanks to expert direction by La La Land director Damien Chazelle and memorable performances by Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, the latter playing Neil’s wife, Janet.

Gosling portrays Armstrong as a guarded, private man who tries to bottle up his emotions. He’s in stark contrast to Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), who says what he thinks, regardless of how others might interpret it. In fact, Aldrin comes off as somewhat unlikable by comparison. It makes you wonder what kind of movie we’d have gotten if Buzz had been first to walk on the Moon.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the technical aspects of First Man. The film has an aged look reminiscent of old NASA footage. While it does feel a little weird to not have the sharpness we’ve come to expect from IMAX, the effect transports you back to the 1960s and makes you believe this is really Neil Armstrong. Speaking of IMAX, watching it on a bigger screen and feeling the pulse of the subwoofer is easily the best way to experience First Man. However, it adds so much, watching it on a TV will pale in comparison more than usual. It’ll almost be like watching a different film.

Despite my praise for First Man, there are a couple themes the movie doesn’t explore enough. The Space Race against the Soviet Union is present early on, but the movie doesn’t focus on it after the first act. First Man also briefly touches on the criticism that tax dollars are being wasted on NASA when the government could spend the money on domestic programs. First Man never provides a counterpoint telling us why we had to beat the Soviets to the Moon, and First Man undercuts the possibility of responding that the U.S. stands for freedom by reminding us of the Vietnam War.

If you’re at all interested in this film, you should go. I recommend seeing it IMAX, particularly at an IMAX Laser venue if possible, as long as you aren’t prone to motion sickness. There’s one sequence that involves a lot of spinning.

I don’t know if there’s an agreed-upon start to Oscar movie season, but with First Man out now, it’s no doubt begun.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (Great)

Aaron Sarnecky
Aaron Sarnecky
Aaron Sarnecky is a Senior Writer and Former TV Editor for The Pop Break. He is a TV/Film grad of Rowan University and the fraternal twin of Senior Columnist Josh Sarnecky. The two record retrospective podcasts together. Aaron probably remembers that canceled show you forgot existed.

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