First Man, a modern masterpiece
There are precious few experiences in life that give you a euphoric high like a truly amazing movie does, but those types of films are hard to come by.
First Man, directed by Damien Chazelle, starring Ryan Gosling, is, without question, one of those movies: a masterpiece and a legend. This is our generation’s Citizen Kane. I do not use these terms lightly. It’s been a very long time since a movie has made me feel the way First Man has made me feel. But before I can address that, we have to talk about the movie itself.
The acting in this film is stellar. Every actor brings their best to the movie. The emotions leap straight off the screen and land squarely onto your soul. Each facial expression is masterful—so much delicacy is put into the tiniest of acting details that you feel what these characters feel.
On that note, a lot of scenes in this film don’t feel like typical movie scenes. Sometimes, particularly in the quiet moments, it feels like you’re simply watching a couple of normal people having a conversation. In part, that’s probably due to careful sound editing; there’s a surprising dearth of background music in conversation scenes.
But if you like big, dramatic moments, fear not, this movie has those too. From takeoff to Armstrong’s iconic lunar landing, the thunderous music and gorgeous cinematography will send goosebumps and shivers of awe down your spine.
Damien Chazelle has always been known for his excellent cinematography, but in this film, he pushes the envelope. Nearly every shot in this film is captured with precision and intent.
The music, composed by Justin Hurwitz, is equally excellent. From quiet, somber, and melancholic moments to dramatic, heart-racing ones, he manages to capture the feeling that the scene intends to have and convey it to the audience.
The film’s depiction of Neil Armstrong’s life may not be 100 percent accurate at times, and it has been criticized for straying too far from the “truth,” but, at the end of the day, this is a film meant to inspire and entertain you, and the creative liberties it takes never greatly interfere with the true storyline.
It’s also emotional: Neil Armstrong’s life is a varied one, and without a shadow of a doubt, I felt every single emotion in every story beat. The losses, the struggles, and the victories all felt real, and that is a testament to how masterfully this movie was put together.
And it made me feel something only a dozen films have made me feel in the past decade: proud to be an American. This film shows you, in graphic detail, the sacrifices that NASA had to make for the mission to finally be successful, and the bravery of the astronauts.
This movie is everything I expected it to be and more. It’s powerful in its message and stays (mostly) true to its source material. And for that, it deserves your support.