First Man is, hands down, the best movie I have seen in the last five years. It’s in my top 10 movies of all time. It’s that good.
First Man is the story of America’s race to get a man on the moon before the Soviets in the 1960’s. But more than that, it’s the very personal story of astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) coming to terms with the loss of his daughter, and his wife (Claire Foy) facing her husband’s emotional distance and the prospect of losing him at any moment.
Armstrong is isolated and driven, and First Man brings this home in dramatically awkward fashion—he interacts with friends, workmates and family, and never connects in any real way. He’s methodical and smart, his emotionless level-headedness ideal for missions. Gosling gives a suitably understated performance, with Foy matching him in intensity.
Director Damien Chazelle has created a work of filmic art. The opening flight scene and those in space are incredibly harrowing. The ancient tech and DIY feel of the rockets makes you wonder how the astronauts got anywhere—it’s not surprising there were so many fatalities. The use of handheld video camera gives the movie a documentary feel, with many scenes filmed in intense close up, emphasising the intimacy and tension.
First Man is not for those who thought Venom was a smart film. It’s intense, painful, gripping, intelligent and moving. It’s everything good movies should be, and it needs to be seen on the big screen.