First Man, about Neil Armstrong’s (Ryan Gosling) quest to the moon, proves that the best epics are also the most intimate.
Damien Chazelle layers this moon drama with heartbreaking echoes of Armstrong’s personal grief, from the untimely passing of his daughter to those of his fellow astronauts. It is as much about floating free from the bounds of tragedy as it is escaping the grasp of gravity.
The moon becomes the one place where Armstrong can untether himself and fully heal and release his pain to the cosmos. Ryan Gosling perfectly captures Armstrong’s inner space, his intimate lunacy, the sense that the process, that space itself is the only thing that understands him, that talks to him and is his most adoring friend. Chazelle knows this and fully proves that Armstrong was made to be the perfect choice for the first man on the moon.
Credit must go to a sound design and cinematography that makes each launch, each vibrating rivet and shakily focused dial, every jarring vibrating body seem like an angry howling monster that needs to be silenced. The silence when it comes is welcomed and reassuring, It is the cycle where First Man finds its drama and power, but also its tranquility base and calming promise.
First Man is a moon shot worth taking a voyage to.