By Adam Ray Palmer
The 75th Venice Film Festival is open for business, and this year, Damien Chazelle gets the opening slot with his movie First Man.
Following his instant classic La La Land in 2016, Chazelle is back with his Neil Armstrong biopic with his trusted pal Ryan Gosling as his leading man.
First Man centres on the eight years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Damien Chazelle focuses on the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and how the legendary space mission led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Fresh from his all-singing-all-dancing masterpiece, Chazelle is back with his La La Land leading man, Ryan Gosling, for a gripping recount of Neil Armstrong’s life from ’61 to ’69. In an interview with Indiewire, Damien promised to shoot “not a traditional biopic, but a visceral mission movie with tons of action” – I am pleased to report he delivered.
The move begins with depicting Armstrong (Gosling) and his Wife Jan (Claire Foy) dealing with their suffering of losing their young daughter. This takes a hold of Armstrong and continues to throughout the next eight years of his life. His demeanour becomes colder, reserved and ever-determined to get back into space whenever possible like he’s running away. Along the way, many tragic incidents occur that impact Armstrong. Deaths of friends and colleagues really hit home the dangers of what international spaceflight is like. These events shape the emotion of the film and make you realise just how resolute Neil Armstrong was.
Chazelle is fully aware at how enormous this task is, to bring this story to life on the big screen. His trusted partner, Gosling, is certainly up to the challenge and delivers a steely performance with an essence of witty and dry humour. Armstrong’s character is deeply layered and in the two-hour run time, Ryan portrays that meticulously. It’s a certain Oscar nomination nod for this man. Claire Foy will be flirting with her own nomination too. Her love-torn wife role is haunting at times as you watch her nervous expressions tell a million stories. She barely needs words to convey emotion. This is the kind of role that will get her in the hunt for the golden statuette.
But hey, the production team should take a bow. The sound editing and mixing is immense – right up there with Gravity and Interstellar. The production design is majestic too, especially the vast and idyllic moon landscape. It’s silently beautiful and very touching. Chazelle is whimsical once again here, telling an enchanting story with such little effort. His camera seems to glide over the picture like that too has no gravity bounds. His action pieces then send you in another direction, very reminiscent of a horror flick. They are tense, loud, fast-paced and eye-widening.
The movie is a joy and must be seen on the big screen. First Man is certainly my first love here at the 75th Venice Film Festival.
Cineroom’s Rating: 5 stars
First Man is out in the UK on 12th October 2018 – certificate 12A