'First Man' intrigued me from the get go. It was based on one of the most important and fascinating true stories and achievements there's ever been, and a very interesting man. It had talented actors such as Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, both of whom have done a lot of fine work. And it was directed by Damien Chazelle, responsible for 'Whiplash' and 'La La Land' which for me were both among the best of their respective years.
Seeing 'First Man', there is a lot to admire and it was not a problem for me that it took a different approach and an unconventional way of executing a biopic. Can see why 'First Man' hasn't connected with others though, it is a polarising film where one can see both sides of like and dislike and part of me was a little disappointed. With so much going for it, one expects a great film but 'First Man' for me was only good and not as good as 'Whiplash' and 'La La Land'. Ranking it amongst other 2018 films seen, it's nowhere near among the worst it also falls short of being one of the best.
Starting with the not so good things, 'First Man' runs a little too long, something that would have been solved by trimming a few of the scenes that went on longer than they needed to. Which would have tightened some of the pacing, some of the film drags.
At times structurally it's disjointed, with some of the back and forth not always clear while aspects could have been delved into further. Do have to agree too sadly that the shakiness of the camera work was excessive at times, did feel queasiness on occasions. The ending felt anti-climactic.
However, on the most part 'First Man' is visually stunning. It's immaculately designed and there is a lot of atmosphere and elegance in the way it's shot, an effective claustrophobia in the more tense scenes being evoked. Not everybody has liked the music, personally found it very haunting and like with 'Whiplash' and 'La La Land' Chazelle's utilisation of it is masterly. Chazelle's unique directing style is all over the film.
The script is intelligent and thought-provoking and while the storytelling was not perfect mostly it did engross me and boasts some thrillingly tense moments (like one of my favourite opening scenes of the year), a subtle intimacy and emotional power. The human drama is affecting and the training and flight sequences tight and have a suitable tension and grandeur. The characters are not what one calls likeable but there is a realism to them and 'First Man' is very strongly acted. Ryan Gosling shows a remarkable ability of conveying a lot without having to say a lot in scenes while Claire Foy provides the film's emotional heft magnificently. There is a detachment in their chemistry but that worked considering the situation, coping with grief and loss does drive a wedge and push people away. The rest of the cast do well, with Corey Stoll surprisingly providing one of the more colourful performances.
Summing up, good but could have been better. Not a giant leap in film-making, not a small step either. 7/10 Bethany Cox
To experience the impossible journey