First Man (2018) – The First Step

It’s Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling again ladies and gentlemen. “First Man” became one of the biopics that turned out to be not inferior to other blockbuster films. Just one word to say this movie is that this will be one of the most Oscar-worthy, or maybe not. At first, I just felt an irony with various kinds of reactions that arose in the audience. Some say why there is no element of conspiracy and not accurately with historical records. Just like other films, I don’t have words for them.

On the other hand, “First Man” has a story and elements which displayed aren’t cheap although the rest only mention the story of Neil Armstrong. Also, there is his family and not too many important roles as he worked at NASA. However, “First Man” is like Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” thick with such a space travel adventure. It makes it like which because its scores that are so classic yet stunning. Plus, the mission of Apollo 11 takes you into a first-person approach. As if taking a part in a space journey while landing on the moon.

The man on the moon, Neil Armstrong played by Ryan Gosling, has undergone three space flight tests but failed. It became overlapped when Neil had to face a harsh reality where Karen had to die of cancer. This problem then has an impact on his psychological, his work as an astronaut, emotions, and thoughts. That made Neil save all his burdens and preferred to vent it to his job. He then tried hard to become the best pilot at NASA. He would later become the first man who steps on the Moon. Various decisions he must take from sacrificing his life along with his wife and children. He must accept the fact that many of his friends die. At the same time, undergoing various tests and flights.

One thing that got me caught up is very different from any previous Damian Chazelle movies who also won Oscars in several categories. This blockbuster drama further highlights the life story of Neil Armstrong. Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is a balanced circumstance when trying to tell its dramatic story and important elements of the historical event. This biopic is not like “Interstellar” or “Gravity” that is so mesmerizing because of the images of intense space. Conversely, this is “2001: A Space Odyssey” were just a minimal dialog it’s used.

Those dialogs then portrayed through the expressions of the characters along with the background of the film shown. As an audience, we don’t need to expect something that would make you more passionate. It doesn’t feel dull like other blockbuster films. Chazelle allows many conspiracies to emerge, of course, for people who take it too seriously. It brings up various new theories. Any kind of controversy turns up at the time. Of course, the first time when the film premiered as well. Apart from this, “First Man” amazes us about the emotional. We respect Neil Armstrong, his friends, and his family as well.

“First Man” has neat cinematography because of the tone which doesn’t rely too much on the patriotism element. Just love when Russia was far ahead of America. When America managed to send humans to the moon, they were like: “Take that.” There are so many dilemmas that arise in how this film portrays Neil’s life. It’s not as a person representing his country (although that is also the main point). It’s about ambition and family. Justin Hurwitz coldly composes a beautiful tone that represents our feelings too.

Just like that Johann Strauss, Hurwitz has a unique score that is so classic although not as amazing as Hans Zimmer but has a melancholy feeling. Sometimes, some scenes are so quiet especially when Neil got his first step onto the Moon. That scene is just well-executed. There is no dialogue, only relying on visuals but somehow we understand what’s in Neil Armstrong’s mind at the time.

It’s so different from other directing techniques. Chazelle relies more on shaky-cam using the first-person perspective when it comes to the rocket and outer space scene. Indeed, this is common in various types of action films or even blockbusters. But, such simple scenes seem more annoying for some parts. But, let’s talk about Ryan Gosling and friends. Ryan Gosling is like an incarnated “Blade Runner 2049“. Being an expressionless character, Neil Armstrong keeps millions of burdens. Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong is also in such a way, an inner war between Ryan Gosling and her character. Two characters with strong figures make these characters have their problems. Just like that scene when Neil for the last time grieved his children and wife. There is irony, sacrifice, but it hurts to see.

Other actors such as Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Pablo Schreiber, and others made this film fill their respective roles. There are heartwarming and charming moments when it comes to Neil’s everyday life, his wife, and children. Although it may not be as detailed as its historical picture, all the images from Neil Armstrong’s appearance to the background and property are as memorable as the 60s. The picture of space that is full of detail, the vibration of the plane, the speedometer, the silence of space, and coupled with the point of view of the first person as if the audience exists as a third party. The picture of space full of emptiness makes this film quite terrifying.

Chazelle’s “First Man” is indeed not a blockbuster film in general. A lot of people might find it boring or whatever. Good cinematography and stories allow the film to run slowly because of its duration. Not much is highlighted except only the drama elements and the expressions of the actors. On the other hand, this is a real science fiction movie. However, so many of the scenes highlighted have led to the film showing something less important. Chazelle is one of the directors whose own trademark but this film isn’t too amazing such as “La La Land” or “Whiplash.”

Handheld shaky cam is almost as a whole but is composed of a classic score that is so amazing. It’s like using such a vast, magnificent visual, but the atmosphere is so empty and quiet. Minimalist actors as well as the dialogue. This first-man-on-the-moon is one of the candidates who will succeed at the Academy Awards and I bet that is gonna be.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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