<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>


Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciaran Hinds, Christopher Abbott, Patrick Fugit

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes


We’ve seen several films about space flight and the struggle to get to the Moon but First Man is a film that shows us the challenges, struggles, loss, pain and cost involved in that pursuit without all the glamour, American bravado, fake inspirational speeches and triumphant finale that you’d expect.

Few people know of the personal struggles that the first man on the Moon had to go through on his long journey into space. Most of them were faced on Earth starting with the loss of his little daughter Karen to a brain tumour. It’s something that haunted him and maybe even pushed him to achieve what no other man at the time could accomplish.


What First Man does is simply show us the circumstances that these engineers and pilots found themselves in at the time. NASA and the US wanted to get a man on the Moon before the Soviets, but didn’t want to spend loads of money. The people of America were protesting: ‘Hungry on Earth, But White Men on the Moon’. The technology and build quality of the machines that took them up there was always questionable, looking as if it had been fashioned out of old garage parts; this even lead to the loss of men while they were sitting on the launch pad during a routine test.

Through it all Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) has to soldier on with a glazed look on his face. The only times he looks truly alive was with his wife Janet (Claire Foy) or with his buddies. Otherwise that almost empty, stoic look takes him from one failed test to another and gives him the edge over his counterparts. He’s not doing this for the glory.


His wife Janet supports him and loves him, but she’s also critical of his attitude and lack of emotion at times. She gives hell to the ‘boys playing with their poorly built toys’ when then they tell her to go home and let them handle things at Houston control centre.

First Man’s mood is mostly sombre and contemplative. There’s no motivational speeches or triumphant background score. Even the finale when they touch down on the Moon is treated subtly, almost anti-climactic. And when you see the flashbacks Armstrong has as he stands on the surface of the barren Moon, you realise something very important: what he has on Earth is far more joyous and happy than that moment he makes that ‘small step for man and giant leap for mankind’.


The scenes in the space capsules are frenetic and scary. If you’re claustrophobic you’ll empathise with the astronauts and see what a real and frightening ordeal they had to endure as part of what they saw as their duty and adventure. They got to that pie in the sky on a wing and prayer.

Perhaps people should appreciate where they are more than where they could be though.


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