As the summer months come to a close, the time has come to look forward to the fall movie season, and the inevitable Oscar bating that will occur with major studios. Director Damien Chazelle has been recognized quite a bit by The Academy, with both his acclaimed drama Whiplash and movie musical La La Land. He's once again collaborating with actor Ryan Reynolds for the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man, which is set for a wide release this coming October. First Man just screened at Venice Film Festival, allowing a few choice outlets to review the film. And overall, reception seems to be very warm for both Chazelle and Gosling, possibly teasing another winning Awards Season.
One of the biggest questions surrounding First Man is how much of Neil Armstrong's actual mission to The Moon would be part of the narrative. Are we talking big space action sequences, or simple shots of Armstrong in the cockpit? It appears the answer would be the former, according to THR. As the review raved,
The missions themselves are deftly handled set pieces, with tentative triumphs often followed by potentially fatal glitches that call on Armstrong, in particular, to show cool-headed quick thinking in a crisis. The historical footnote of a fatal cockpit fire that claimed the lives of three astronauts during a Cape Canaveral test provides a moving dramatic marker.
It looks like Neil Armstrong's career as an astronaut will be portrayed as thrilling, complicated, and even deadly. It's a notoriously dangerous profession, and Armstrong's colleagues lost their lives attempting to travel into space. This will help give First Man extremely high stakes, no doubt providing thrilling sequences in the process. But not all of First Man's early praise has been around the spectacle of the project. Indeed, Ryan Gosling's performance getting mention as well, particularly how subtle his characterization of Neil Armstrong is. According to Independent.co, the actor is extremely understated.
Gosling manages it superbly. Reunited with La La Land director Damien Chazelle, he guides us through eight years of space flights, mishaps and tragedies leading up to the 1969 landing. The tension is constant and told not through the usual paraphernalia of space movies, but often through Gosling's face. It is almost expressionless. Almost. The barest sign of a tremor around his mouth, or a sign of hope or fear in his piercing blue eyes convey a great deal.
Variety's review also praised how First Man is able to transport the audience into the POV of an Astronaut, and how the movie will go full tilt from its opening scene:
In First Man, Chazelle restricts the action almost entirely to the point-of-view of the astronauts themselves: the things they literally see and hear during their missions (the movie eschews panoramic shots they aren't privy to), along with what they're thinking and feeling. From the dizzy and volatile opening sequence, in which Armstrong, as a test pilot in 1961, rides an X-15 up into the black clouds, ripping through the air to the point that he almost can't get back (mission control: "Neil, you're bouncing off the atmosphere"), the movie is tethered to everything the men experience: the random shards of sky looming up out of cramped windows, the topsy-turvy angles, the whole existential inside-the-cockpit zooming-into-the-void craziness of it all.
Of course, it isn't all praise for First Man. While The Guardian still gave it an overall positive review, it claims that Damien Chazelle could have framed the story better, ultimately resulting in a more powerful film.
It is also a film that downgrades the patriotic fervour of the landing. Armstrong and his comrades are certainly shown to be deeply nettled by news of initial Soviet triumphs in the space race, but Chazelle abolishes the planting of the stars and stripes on the moon. And then, of course, there is that remarkable phrase with which this cautious, unpoetic man delighted the world and astonished his comrades: 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' (Didn't he mean 'a man' -- or is that what he said and we misheard?) Again, a slightly less reverent film would have shown Armstrong shyly honing that phrase, maybe going through pencil-and-paper drafts. Not here. The mystery of its composition is left untouched.
Ultimately, we'll have to wait a few months before moviegoers and the general public get to see First Man for themselves. Ryan Gosling's Neil Armstrong biopic will arrive in theaters on October 12, 2018. In the meantime, check out our 2018 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.