My Rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 88% Certified Fresh
PLOT: A look at the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Let me be clear: I thoroughly enjoyed “First Man.” It had me recalling the days as a kid when my dad worked at Langley, and there was a NASA facility close by that had a visitors center, and I would read and read and read about the space program. I like that the film doesn’t spend a WHOLE lot of time explaining the intricacies of who people are (the names Deke and Gus get thrown around a lot), focusing its main energies on one man.
I LOVE the space flight sequences. The visual FX wizards on this one outdid themselves. Every single scene in space looks and feels authentic. I’m fairly certain actual footage was interspersed with “fake” footage, a la “Apollo 13”, but with an even greater degree of realism. (The incident aboard Gemini 8 is particularly well done.) We spend enough time observing Armstrong that we know how he MIGHT be feeling, but never finding out what he’s ACTUALLY feeling, which is about right. I think healthy speculation works for this movie; it doesn’t spoon-feed you.
BUT…I will say that “First Man” has more in common with “2001: A Space Odyssey” than “Apollo 13” when it comes to editing and style. Which is to say, you feel every minute of its 141-minute running time. It was NOT, I say again, NOT BORING. It was just…leisurely. The trailers do NOT get this point across, and I think it’s something people should be aware of so they don’t get ticked off that things aren’t moving as fast as they thought they would.
So I give it an “8” because it’s not QUITE the movie I thought it was going to be, but I still really enjoyed it for what it was: a loving tribute to a man of exceptional courage. (Sort of like a sequel to “The Right Stuff.”)