For centuries humans have looked to the sky with curiosity and awe. From Daedalus to Copernicus, to Orville and Wilbur Wright. “First Man” beautifully displays this phenomenon and the lengths humans will to go conquere the unknown.
Fresh off of an Oscar win, director Damien Chazelle joins with award- winners Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy to give audiences a never- before seen look at the lunar landing and the sacrifices that were necessary for its success.
As “First Man” begins, Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) is reeling from a personal tragedy, and a subsequently declining career. His powerful mind is overshadowed by a personal life spinning out of control, and he is slowly being pushed out of the burgeoning space program. However, after obtaining a place on one of NASA’S brand new operations, all of this is irrevocably changed.
Armstrong and his family soon relocate to Houston as he begins training for NASA’S revolutionary Gemini program. Surrounded by other space geniuses such as Gus Grissom, Ed white, and Roger Chaffee we see Armstrong slowly escape from his shell of grief. The men work tirelessly to perfect the Gemini program and beat the Soviet’s to the moon.
All seems to be going smoothly as the team prepare for the first Apollo journey. Although it all comes to a tragic end, when a cockpit fire takes the lives of Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom, and Ed White- Armstrong’s closest friend. Blindsided, the program is forced to deal with this disastrous set back. However, unbeknownst to him, it is this very incident that will land Armstrong on the moon and propel him into history.
When Armstrong receives the news that he will pilot the first lunar landing, he is both shocked and overwhelmed. While we see the painstaking work that absorbs Armstrong in the months leading up to the landing, we are also privy to the marital toals this places on the couple. His wife Janet (Claire Foy) is forced to raise her sons virtually on her own, while putting on a brave face for the cameras. She is also consumed by the worry that her husband may not come home at the end of the day.
This inner turmoil comes to a head the night before the launch. As Armstrong packs, Janet ask him what he plan to tell the kids. After giving her a flippant remark, Janet explodes in a mix of grief and anger. She forces Armstrong to sit down with the kids and inform them that he many never be coming home. The subsequent tete- a tete with the kids is both painful and poignant.
Finally, the day of the launch comes. As the team is thrust into space, audiences will be filled with angst, and trepidation. Despite knowing what will happen, the majestic movie making will fill movie- goes with fear none the less. These final minutes of the movie are truly magical, as we see space through eyes that had previously been closed to it. As Armstrong utters his historic remarks, one will feel triumph, pride, and patriotism.
“First Man” breathes new life into a well know story, and is bound to inspire a whole new class of space enthusiasts. It is a testament to the power of American determination, and is bound to unite the nation in boisterous pride.