Star – Ryan Gosling
My Rating ****
Genre – Action/Drama/Biopic
Run Time – 2 Hr 21 Minutes.
Certificate – PG13
Country – U.S.A
Oscar – 1 win & 3 nominations
Awards – 24 Wins & 169 Nominations
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Anyone who thinks Apollo 11 didn’t land on the moon and it was all a hoax is a massive idiot. These deniers tend to say that because they can’t contemplate the bravery and ingenuity of man that got us to the Moon, qualities they clearly don’t have, and never will. In fact Apollo 11 was not the first Apollo flight to be capable of landing on the moon. Apollo 10 performed a dress rehearsal the year before, with the LEM dropping to an altitude of just 8 miles above the lunar surface. If the astronauts had chanced it against orders they could have carried out the landing. It would then not have been the Eagle that landed on the moon but a Beagle, the Apollo 10 LEM named after Peanuts character Snoopy. We see rockets go up and it was just time and risk stopping man eventually getting to the moon.
Incredibly astronomers spotted “Snoopy” only last month, which has remained in solar orbit since May of 1969. I loved that quirky story from the Extras on the DVD.
The film is a character study of Neil Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling, following his journey from USAF test pilot to landing on the Moon. Astronauts back then where military men on military salaries and the guys were only paid $8 extra per day when they were on missions in space. Bizarrely they had to pay for their living and food expenses when aboard the spacecraft, as food and a bed was technically provided for them, deducted from their wages. Interestingly, because of the physical positions of the pilot and commander inside the LEM and the awkward bulky suits they wore, they had to leave for landing module in a specific order. The order was determined by the position of the hinge on the LEM door, next to Armstrong, why he was first on the Moon.
Gosling again teams up with director Damien Chazell after they did La La Land together a year earlier, writing this film when filming that one.
Ryan Gosling … Neil Armstrong
Claire Foy … Janet Armstrong
Jason Clarke … Ed White
Kyle Chandler … Deke Slayton
Corey Stoll … Buzz Aldrin
Patrick Fugit … Elliot See
Christopher Abbott … Dave Scott
Ciarán Hinds … Bob Gilruth
Olivia Hamilton … Pat White
Pablo Schreiber … James Lovell
Shea Whigham … Gus Grissom
Lukas Haas … Mike Collins
Ethan Embry … Pete Conrad
Brian d’Arcy James … Joe Walker
We pick up Armstrong (Gosling|) in the US Air Force as a test pilot on the Bell X program, very high altitude jet planes that were effectively rockets with wings, the idea to try and test were the atmosphere ends and space begins and the effects on the planes, and the pilots.
He decides to try and join a top secret program in NASA. When he finds out he is accepted and it’s for a moon shot program he shows rare positive emotion, a lugubrious man at heart. Life is tough at home right now as his little daughter has cancer and going through tough chemo, and his stoic wife Janet (Clair Foy) carrying the strain of potentially losing her, and him, every day of the week.
He progresses well and soon fast-tracked to the Gemini, the rocket program before Apollo that put the pieces in place for the eventual moon orbit and shot with the more powerful and long range rockets. After a near fatal spin in orbit and a likewise crash on earth , its deemed Armstrong is ready and he is teamed up with three others for the Apollo 11 moon shot, the program accelerated due to the fear of Russia getting their first…
I think it’s fair to say First Man is your typical Oscar chasing movie, extra long, worthy, intense and a top actor giving 100% to try and win a golden statue, building his performance around one of Americas most iconic historic moments the way to go about that to please the Academy. It’s not a bad movie though and enjoyable, good to learn more about the indefatigable Neal Armstrong and the risk the guys took. Sons Mark and Rick Armstrong said that First Man was the most accurate portrayal of their father and their mother Janet Armstrong on film. It’s also worth seeing Hidden Figures, about the role intelligent black women played in the space program in racist America.
Armstrong was nowhere near as handsome as Gosling and perhaps one of the reasons Neil didn’t seek to cash in on his unlimited prestige and fame back then. Yuri Gagarin was handsome and why he was picked for the mission, the Russians understanding early on the power of celebrity in propaganda in The Cold War. But the film is really about how Armstrong deals with the loss of his young daughter and the profound effect it must have had on him flying to the heavens, a real sadness and pathos reflected in Goslings performance. We really don’t know much about Armstrong if the truth be told. Claire Foy is also very good as his stressed wife trying to raise their other kids around this constant fear of her husband, and their astronaut friends, dying all the time. Three of his closest friends were cooked in an early Apollo test on the launch pad.
Damien Chazelle’s film is a good mix of action, drama, emotion and factual re-creation throughout and although a little long it never feels flabby. It did cause controversy in its opening week when the film omitted the scene where they plant the American flag on the Moon, causing a bad opening weekend as patriotic Americans gave it a miss. It never really recovered from that and its $62 million budget took just $106 million box office- and just Oscar.
Imdb.com 7.3/10.0 – (137,435votes)
Rottentomatos.com –87% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 84% critic’s approval