The last time Ryan Gosling and Damian Chazelle made a movie together, they very nearly received the Oscar for Best Picture, even though they didn’t technically win it. Now, the pair has moved on from La La Land for a very different sort of movie in First Man. There’s no music in this one, just serious drama about a very real subject. So what does CinemaBlend think about Gosling as Neil Armstrong in this period space race drama? While the movie has some pretty impressive spectacle, most of the crowd here found the drama pretty muted. In the official CinemaBlend review Eric Eisenberg said…
Walking out of First Man, I realized that my feelings very much lined up with my thoughts about Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk last year. Both have riveting sequences, with standouts being filmed in glorious IMAX, and each has an admirable relationship with history that lends a strange but important sense of credibility. However, that dedication to reality also cuts both ways, and similar to how Dunkirk didn’t have a single relatable character, First Man gives you nobody with which you can connect, and it detracts from the experience. Overall, the Neil Armstrong movie is definitely the stronger film, but it also isn’t everything you hope that it would be.
First Man covers nearly the entire decade of the 1960s as America works toward being the first nation to land a human on the surface of the moon. While we meet many of the real people involved in that endeavor, the lynchpin of the story is the man who would have that honor of being first, Neil Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling.
The movie is his story, his experience. However, while Neil Armstrong may be a name in the history books, he’s not a man who is really in touch with his own emotions or the historic nature of the events he is part of, at least that’s how the film portrays him. As our own Sean O’ Connell puts it, the movie just doesn’t inspire the awe that it should because the audience never feels connected to Gosling’s character.
First Man is the first Damien Chazelle movie that failed to move me, emotionally. Without question, I was impressed by the technical achievements of Chazelle and his team, faithfully recreating the turbulent stretch NASA underwent to race the Soviets to the surface off the moon. But by choosing a cold and detached protagonist in Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), First Man handicaps its mission, and the story never reaches the awe-inspiring heights that should be reached by an Apollo docudrama retelling. Proficient but emotionless, First Man feels flat and thin, like the pages of a history textbook.
Still, the movie isn’t without its moments. The last half hour of the film that actually deals with the moon landing is a breathtaking technical achievement, and it does show the struggle and sacrifice that many men and women made in order to achieve the impossible. As CB’s Braden Roberts says…
First Man is a stellar ride that explores the danger, uncertainty, stress endured by Neil Armstrong and NASA’s first astronauts. It’s a resolute reminder of the sacrifices made for that one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind.
As far as myself, I overall felt very similar to Sean and Eric, as Ryan Gosling is so good at playing the utterly emotionless Armstrong, that I was unable to get invested in the story.
First Man is about as cold and lifeless as the vacuum of space. Ryan Gosling’s Armstrong spends the entire movie trying to avoid his emotions and he succeeded in making sure I avoided my own. The last bit in space is quite impressive on a technical level, and probably looks phenomenal on an IMAX screen. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it that way, and I don’t have enough interest in revisiting the rest of the story to go back and find out.
First Man may tell the story of a giant leap for mankind but it largely leaves the humanity out of the equation. While what’s left is visually stunning and expertly crafted, it just leaves a lot to be desired. Still, it’s a movie about going to the moon, so there’s a sense of grandness to it that can’t be overlooked. First Man is in theaters now.