First Man (12A)

I went into First Man with sky high expectations. I’d love to say that I wasn’t disappointed, but I am.

Oscar winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling were hoping to recreate their Hollywood magic from La La Land once more with First Man. The movie tells the gripping story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon amid the space race with the Russians. The movie centres around the most infamous astronaut Neil Armstrong, played by Gosling between 1961 and 1969.

We witness Armstrong’s trials and tribulations as he struggles to juggle family life with that of a man fixated on space exploration. With every failure that NASA endures the more determined Armstrong becomes.

His first-person account is visceral and poignant, showing the sacrifices and cost on both Armstrong and the nation to carry out one of the deadliest missions in history.

We watch as the American’s perseverance is tested time and time again, as lives are lost, time and time again. With success in sight, what will it take to achieve the unimaginable? What will Armstrong have to sacrifice to obtain his goal? His life? His family?

You can’t fault the performance of Gosling or his co-stars including on screen wife and The Crown star Claire Foy. It’s just that the movie spends so long getting to the point, to the moment we all know off by heart, that you become disengaged from the narrative. Once you’ve started clock watching, even once, they’ve lost you. I checked my watch twice.

Another key issue is that in knowing about the moon landing from what we’ve taught as children and the number of the successful mission I, like many other people, knew the outcomes of its predecessors. Yes, you could say the same of other retellings of real events, but in focussing so much on what came before the moon landing, it turns history-savvy people off.

The scenes in space are quite literally gravity-defying and mesmerising. Think Interstellar and then some. Warning, if you easily get nauseous then this isn’t the movie for you. I saw it in 2D and it was dizzying so in 3D or IMAX you’re in for a real treat.

This isn’t Gosling worst movie to date, that would be Only God Forgives, but it isn’t his best either.

First Man is a fun jaunt into space, but one that drags on for far too long.

By Ruth Walker

★★★☆☆

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