The Observer

“First Man” gives audiences a harrowing and compelling journey to the moon

Lars Torres, Staff Reporter

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After four years, Damien Chazelle has cemented himself as one of this generation’s great directors with the masterpieces “Whiplash” in 2014 and “La La Land” in 2016. His newest film, “First Man,” is a complete change in subject matter and tone from his previous films, as Chazelle seeks to prove himself as more than just a music filmmaker. Chazelle more than proves himself with this film.

“First Man” tells the story of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and his personal struggles between 1961 and 1969 during the Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Both superpowers were trying to become the first to put a man on the moon. The film takes a rather unconventional approach to the Space Race and focuses on Armstrong and his family as they grapple with the death of a loved one. This death affects both his actions and emotions as he obsesses over becoming the first to walk on the moon.

From a technical standpoint, “First Man” reigns supreme over most of the films that have come out this year, with impeccable sound design and claustrophobic yet beautiful cinematography. Many of the space flight sequences bring a sense of realism and isolated brilliance to the film through the approaches to sound by talented sound designers and mixers and cinematography work by cinematographer Linus Sandgren.

Chazelle’s steady direction with a deft and emotionally balanced hand makes Armstrong a very sympathetic character in spite of his cold, detached demeanor. Ryan Gosling’s performance as Armstrong and Claire Foy’s performance as Janet Shearon, Armstrong’s wife, help make the astronaut the emotional core of the story.

The score, composed by regular Chazelle collaborator Justin Hurwitz, is astonishing in some sequences with the unique sound of a theremin during the film’s most emotional and raw scenes aiding the heart-wrenching moments. Much like Chazelle’s other films, the climax is one to be remembered, as the final half hour of the film leads into the Apollo 11 launch.

The launch itself is a provocative and amazing moment, but the moon landing produces some of the most satisfying sounds and feelings that one will experience this year in film. The fantastic soundtrack, combined with impressive visuals and direction create a stunning moment. The sequences on the moon itself, especially in IMAX, are so beautiful and gripping that you will actually believe that you are on the moon with Armstrong and Aldrin.

The supporting cast is fantastic. Although the supporting cast may seem underutilized, the apparent neglect helps keep the focus of the film on Armstrong.

The film, another knockout from Chazelle, has some of most resonant sequences and performances you will experience all year and will stand the test of time.

Film: “First Man”

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Release: Oct. 12

Rating: 5 out of 5

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“First Man” gives audiences a harrowing and compelling journey to the moon