Damien Chazelle’s Return With Neil Armstrong Biopic “First Man”

Coming off his last 2 films: Whiplash and La La Land– director Damien Chazelle has proved himself to be an on-the-rise director in Hollywood. His new piece, “First Man”, echoes such a thought. “First Man” is bio-picture of the famed Neil Armstrong, and his historical quest to become the first man to land on the lunar surface. Okay, so, an action film… not quite. This movie pinpoints more on Armstrong’s lead up to the famed Apollo eleven mission and his familial relations. A big part of the film focuses on Neil’s relationship with his daughter who passed away from cancer at a young age. Establishing different settings of home life, NASA, and more really placates the film as a biography more than the simple depiction of his space mission. Really impressive film. Roll the analysis…                  


   Academy Award Winning Director, Damien Chazelle,

at the red carpet of his new flick “First Man” (Right)




Knowing Chazelle’s background, I truly went into the theater expecting a great script and paramount acting. It’s nothing short of that. Ryan Gosling is fantastic as always portraying the late Neil Armstrong, and this work gives him a reasonable shot at another Academy Award nod come January. Ryan Gosling has proven to work well with Chazelle as they teamed up for the Golden-Globe winner “La La Land” in 2016. The massive surprise came from Claire Foy as Jane Armstrong, Neil’s wife. Known for her work in the television series “The Crown”, Foy gives a once in a lifetime performance in “First Man”. Watching the movie, the audience really gets a feel for Jan. A spouse of an astronaut especially in the space race era was stressful as they didn’t know whether their husbands would come home from their missions. Many lives were lost getting the United States to the moon and the film highlights the struggles of the families, something that often gets overlooked. The script itself should be a contender for best Adaptive Screenplay as the film in whole is based off a James R. Hansen’s biography of the well known astronaut. The superior writing is flaunted in this film. You get a feel for the mastery of the script in a particular scene where Neil and Jan are having a confrontation over whether Neil should warn his sons about his chances of no return. Its masterfully done.


By far the best aspect of this movie is the cinematography. Superior camera-work has been a trend in Chazelle’s previous two blockbusters, but this one is the cherry on top. “First Man” was almost entirely shot with hand-held cameras enabling an up close and personal shot of the characters and their emotions. Furthermore, the action scenes were stunning. The constant shaking of the cameras during take-off scenes was something unique. Personally, I felt like I was there in the spaceship with him. Absolutely incredible cinematography that is for sure an Oscars contender for the competitive category.




There’s not too many negative takeaways from this movie. The only major concern that popped out to me was the length of the film. I immensely believe that shortening the length of the film would help the movie. I felt as if the dramatic moon scene specifically towards the end of the movie may of been a little too dramatic for the average viewer. Alongside that, some of the space scenes were a bit overdone as well. Its a 2 hour and 21 minute movie that would benefit from being a straight 2 hours of riveting plot.


I realize that some audience were coming into Chazelle’s biopic expecting an action packed saga of space exploration, but in turn the most thrilling scenes of the film might be on the Earth’s surface in the Armstrong household. Therefore, regarding the controversy over what type of film the movie should be, I support focusing on Armstrong’s family life has it gives another dimension to already popularized narrative.


Is it Oscar Worthy?


The big question… how will do in Early March. Time will tell. I definitely think this is a film that will grow in liking as the movie season goes on, similar to films like Barry Jenkins Best Picture winner “Moonlight” in 2016. For me, the film is nearly a lock in categories such as adaptive screenplay, and cinematography. Furthermore, I think Josh Hurwitz’s cosmic score should get some praise. The significant categories where this film has to sit well with critics are the acting categories for the two stars: Ryan Gosling & Claire Foy and Damien Chazelle’s chances at taking home the trophy for Best Actor/Actress. I’d like to see Chazelle get another nomination for his work in “First Man” as well, yet there are so many more movies to come and directing performances to unfold. Overall, it should be very interesting to see the achievements and shortcomings of “First Man” come award season.                              Grade:  A-