Yet another space epic lands in cinemas. However, if you want the marvel of intergalactic adventure and the CGI visuals to accompany, this might not be the film you’re looking for.
First Man, rated 12A, based on one of the most impressive moments in human history, takes this accomplishment and hides it behind the minimalist man who carried out the feat.
Damien Chazelle, the brilliant mind behind Whiplash and La La Land, takes a rather subdued look at this pivotal time in human history as we follow the life of Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong and his family in the lead up and during the famous Apollo 11 mission.
Personally, I find that this is a rather touching tribute as the audience gets a look into the life of Armstrong for what seems to be the first time. Be warned, it is not all sunshine and rainbows. You’ll find that out during a funeral in the first 10 minutes of the film. And many others that follow for that matter.
An example of the personal nature of the film was the soundtrack itself, composed by Justin Hurwitz. Most notably the use of the theremin, an obscure instrument that is not usually used in film. It turned out that Gosling wanted to find a personal connection to aid characterising Armstrong and their love of the theremin aligned, leading to the unusual instrument becoming a key feature of the soundtrack. It almost adds a cosmic quality to the soundscape which really adds to the atmosphere.
Another element which was greatly appreciated was the cinematography and the idea that it did in fact take place in the 1960s. The rattling of the cockpit and the almost dated look of the film really enhances the historic setting and it adds a real emphasis on just how impressive the accomplishment was with the technology available.
American audiences did not appreciate the more personal feel of the film, however, with many people complaining at the lack of patriotism it showed, and the scarcity of the American flag throughout the film. In the end, that’s Trump’s America for you isn’t it.
The film follows the preparations towards the Apollo 11 mission, displaying technological advances and training as it progresses through both the successful and the failed missions. It also gives an insight into the lives of the astronauts at the time and how their jobs and lives were interconnected. Again, if you want plasma rifles and Armstrong punching the spacecraft to light-speed, just go and watch Star Wars again. You won’t get that here.
A rather disappointing element to the film was the anticlimactic end. We spend the whole time watching Armstrong and his family look forward to the mission and plan ahead to the potential consequences, so you would think that the end would involve a crescendo of emotion. Nope. It resembled watching a lit stick of dynamite and it going out right before detonation. Yes it was poignant, but I think it was a missed opportunity.
In the end, the film in my view was a success, but it left you wanting more. It is fully focused on Armstrong’s personal battles and we didn’t get to see the triumph. Let’s face it, they can’t really add a sequel so that’s not going to happen and I think that is a real shame. However the insight that we were allowed to witness both emotional and inspirational. A fitting tribute to an incredible man who achieved a mind-boggling feat.