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Film Review: First Man

Director:    Damien Chazelle

Cast:    Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Ciaran Hinds, Patrick Fugit, Kyle Chandler, Lukas Haas, Corey Stoll, Brian d’Arcy James

Rating:    G

Running Time:    141

Australian Distributor:     Universal Pictures Australia


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 lost 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.

Ryan Gosling’s magical performance fitted perfectly with the character presented. He became emotionally hardened in one of his finest performances. Claire Foy conveys her role as a grieving parent with care and delicacy. The deep supporting cast includes Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, and Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin.  

Having seen the film on the huge IMAX screen in Melbourne, First Man is a riveting film from both a narrative and technical standpoint. The only possible query may be the running time. Perhaps it’s about 15-20 minutes too long. The space shots are beautifully shot, with incredible cinematography. It’s a technical marvel.  As well, the human element adds to a space blockbuster.




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