First Man is a magic rocket ride
As Neil Armstrong, the First Man to set foot on the moon, Ryan Gosling has the challenging task of playing a character whose life depends upon staying focused and unemotional. He is like Keir Dullea calmly repeating “open the pod bay doors” to HAL the rebellious computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. The word “wooden” springs to mind—but but Kubrick picked his star for that calmness and certainty, and director Damien Chazelle chose Gosling for the same reason. We first meet Armstrong as a test pilot whose X-15 jet gets in serious trouble. “You’re bouncing off the atmosphere,” ground control explains. The pilot doesn’t even break a sweat. What makes this film special, is getting to meet Armstrong as a family man and father concerned with the fate of his cancer-stricken daughter. We also catch glimpses of the media strings being pulled and the back-up plans for probable failure from the Nixon White House. In today’s climate of toxicity, the film has been crucified for not taking time to show Armstrong planting the American Flag in the lunar landscape. Phwwtttt. Why not talk about the bravery the filmmaker displays in the final images they selected to show the audience? Now that is something.