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Movie Reviews

Posted at: Oct 12, 2018, 5:05 PM; last updated: Oct 12, 2018, 5:05 PM (IST)MOVIE REVIEW: FIRST MAN

An intensely captivating account

An intensely captivating account
A still from First Man

Johnson Thomas

The first man to walk on the moon might be considered an unforgettable milestone – a defining moment for space science, yet Damien Chazelle’s new picture based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, scripted by Josh Singer, an unfaltering slow-burning account of the human elements that accounted for that monumental moment, isn’t much concerned with the celebratory aspects of that sterling achievement. The narrative stays restrained and broods on the many individual and collective sacrifices that made such a ‘big picture’ possible.

This is Neil Armstrong’s (Ryan Gosling) story and takes you through his ‘grind’ before he became a legend. Hoping to go one-up on the USSR, NASA plans a series of extremely treacherous, unparalleled missions in the early 1960s. As an engineer, Neil Armstrong joins the space programme, spending years in training and risking his life during test flights. The risks he takes on behalf of a programme that is more ambitious than safe comes through quite evocatively here. And it all culminates in stellar achievement when on July 16, 1969, the US and world watch in wonder as Armstrong and fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins embark on the historic Apollo 11 Moonflight.

The title may be self-revelatory but the treatment is so powerfully crafted that your attention is riveted on every moment on screen - to the extent that there’s a strong enough build-up of tension, emotional involvement and suspense along the way. Chazelle’s need to vary his skills (Whiplash, La La Land) with every new enterprise is superbly showcased in this attempt bringing both skill and intelligence into play while framing the endurance course that defines Armstrong’s life before he achieves what was once considered next to impossible.

This is an intensely personal film where Armstrong’ life as a family man is countermanded by his series of attempts in the rattling tinny spacecrafts he pilots to outer space and back. Chazelle’s use of silences and sounds are just perfect. When Armstrong penetrates the atmospheric barrier, the moment is captured with soul-stirring sublimity. Armstrong’s moody close-off from wife Janet (Claire Foy) and his two kids makes his inner turmoil all the more palpable. Both Gosling and Foy are first rate as a couple battling with demons beyond their control. The rest of the cast also put in convincing performances – enough to make this experience a memorable and unforgettable one!


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