Review of FIRST MAN: A small step for a man, NO giant leap for mankind

Zum Thema Filmtipps, Home, In English, please! von - November 12, 2018

Damien Chazelle – the young director whose name sounds like a cheap perfume, can rightly be described as one of the visionaries of his era. He made jazz acceptable for the big screen, both as a psychodrama and as a colorful musical. The first reviews of his latest film „First Man“ overturned – which you cannot say from the audience so far. And indeed, his Neil Armstrong biopic is at times brilliant, at times a bitter disappointment.


Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong, whose life is documented by heavy trial runs and trainings on various personal blows to the greatest achievement of humanity. While trying to get his daughter’s death out of his mind, he gets involved into the Russian-American competition, as the technology makes progress despite all setbacks and issues and there is only one goal for all involved: the moon.

I often read before that the movie was breathtaking. And that is not even a lie. Especially in the opening sequence, the sound and the images throw you into the pilot’s seats. „First Man“ is always enormously strong when the pilots are sitting in the machines. It rattles, creaks and slams deafeningly from left and right. The warning signals bite through the nerves as everything begins to shake. As if the claustrophobic setting and the frightening sound were not enough, the viewer sees only what the pilots see: buttons and buttons and short glimpses from a single small window. The realization of being at the mercy of the chaos of the inside, of one’s own technique, gives films a brutal intensity.

Bildergebnis für first man

Visually and audiovisually, the audience here definitely gets the Champions League cinematic quality. Just to prevent misunderstandings: I’m not talking about bombast and epic special effects here. „First Man“ is as far from 08/15 blockbusters as „Annihilation“ from a good screenplay. All the terror that the flight sequences carry is countered by a moon landing that dispenses practically everything that Michael Bay would use. Suddenly, sound and noise are gone, completely! It gets quiet, panoramic shots replace the camera fidget. For a few moments, everything is forgotten and the fascination that Armstrong must have felt takes over. So yes, on a technical level, the movie is breathtaking. By the way also, because I consumed inhuman amounts of popcorn without a break.

As I already mentioned, the whole spectacle is only partially brilliant. Just because the script was made for Ryan Gosling and his two facial features, he does not act as an Oscarist here. Pressed lemon in the eye here (Come on, tear, fall!), shattered glass there – that’s not brillant acting to me. If I read again that the introverted Neil Armstrong of Gosling is played very „nuanced“, I escalate. Gosling has exactly one great moment: The scene in which Armstrong is forced by his wife to say goodbye to his children. That is intense! In the rest of the film he almost mimics autistic. A Tom Hardy or a Joel Edgerton would definitely have done this more authentic.

Women Empowerment in a movie full of men

Added to this is a cast that has been carefully and appropriately selected down to the smallest figure, but can not be beaten for superficiality. In principle, none of them plays a major role – what a waste of Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Ciaran Hinds, Corey Stoll, etc. etc. Shoutout to the girls! Because „Unsane“ -Queen Claire Foy outacts the entire men’s crew. In every scene! In her eyes alone, the fear, the anger, the question marks and all the psychological side-swipes are reflected so realistically that her figure attracts attention even more often than it might have been the plan. Add to that a powerful scene in which Chazelle’s wife Olivia Hamilton (as a mourning widow, Pat White) mimics a mental blackout. That was remarkable!

After a good two and a half hours of alternation between traumatic space sequences and emotionless character studies, I remain somewhat helpless. I especially like the technical approach, which looks perfect down to the last detail. On the other hand, I’m bothering myself a lot with the failed balance act of the story to impose the human component. A visit to the cinema is especially worthwhile if you have a lot of time and want to get entertained by sound and visuals. In addition, Chazelle omits here almost completely on American pathos, which I credit him high.

„First Man“ wants to be a Armstrong biopic but it stops right after the moon landing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this man lived much longer. Claire Foy is marvelous. The captivating, intense action moments are the non plus ultra of the year. In the end you should enjoy it in the cinema but maybe with lower expectations.

You can find my German review of Aufbruch zum Mond HERE.

Ich möchte meine Leidenschaft für Filme mit Euch teilen. Es gibt so viele spannende, interessante Werke, die viel zu wenig Beachtung geschenkt bekommen. Manchmal braucht ein stark kritisierter Film einen Verteidiger. Andere gehypte Filme müssen dagegen auch mal hinterfragt werden. Filme müssen Spaß machen.

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