First Man Review – One Small Step taken into the Space!
Damien Chazelle has made only four films and he has managed to carve a niche. The first man is a movie, that can be called as a testament while he inching the bracket of the contemporary directors. The three films of Damien Chazelle have introverted protagonists who are obsessive and Jazz. They go to any extent in order to realize the dreams while making things easier. All of his works are extremely personal and are driven by a passion. Therefore, his journey is not only awe-inspiring but contains all the elements that make the film engaging. Damien keeps the same template for his protagonist in this film but he excludes the Jazz in the picture. Justin Hurwitz has composed an heart-aching yet extremely beautiful music which heightens the emotion and the tension of the film. Landing on the moon, according to human history is one of the celebrated moments that determined courage to make impossible things, possible. As he says, that landing on the moon is just a small step for the man and there are giant leaps to be taken for mankind.
Damien approaches the storyline with a different perspective from what we have heard. It narrates the story from a personal conundrum in life. Instead of describing the technicalities and difficulties that are involved in the feat of landing on the Moon, he thought of breathing the soul in the mission by giving us a realistic drama about the personal life of First Man. An emotional journey as it is, Neil tries to come in terms with the demise of the daughter who propels them to join the astronaut life. Feeling defeated and extremely devastated after his daughter’s death, he strives to achieve the landing in order to get a closure on the emotional front. The film is grand in the tone as well as the treatment that the thrilling elements of the touchdown turned it into a mournful and poetic undertone. The chronicles of the movie about the personal loss at different junctures layer the character of Neil while grieving for the daughter followed by the consequences, Neil’s journey is a blend of the personal life as well as the mission.
It opens with the close-up of Neil as he sits in a cramped environment with filth and binary buttons of the rocket that are powered by X-15. The rocket starts shaking violently in the environment after being on the space flight and as it traverses through the stratosphere. In this harrowing scene where Armstrong loses control of the rocket before things start spiraling out of control and endangers his life by floating off in the space. The design of the film is unsettling, unnerving and has the test flight scenes included as well. There are a lot of landing scenes including the Apollo mission that is shot in urgency and of acute tension. The director maintains the frame composition within the view and evokes the feeling that we are sitting in the cockpit with Neil. The shaky camera in the picture has never been realized to the potential even not in the Bourne, made by Paul Greengrass. The composition along with the movement of the camera is subjective and gives a docudrama feel about the flight sequence.
Driven by the natural light, Linus Sandgren should be commended for the granular cinematography which reminds us of the time. We find similarities between Carol’s cinematography done by Edward Lachman and this film. Both of them might have used the Super 16mm, with the flight shots having the immersive experience that has been shown for a long long time. The horizon of the blue sky reflecting on the helmet is one of the beautiful moments of the film. Here, you will find a random segment of the light that blinks outside the rocket and the individual fills in the void. The journey away from the earth is both hypnotic and as well as exhilarating. The background and the design of the score are admirable and are utilized in an astounding way in the film. The sounds of the nut bolts, metal joints, and the switches hurtle the prototype coupled with the extreme shots instilling the fear of trapping inside the casket. The whole film manages to develop the claustrophobic feeling inside us!
The film never fails to enthrall you with the inventive and flawless flight scenes and the drama that shifts between the personal and as well as the social life. The movie, however, fails to maintain the pace as the drama gets more and more compelling to stay invested in the characters. The supporting cast of the film is reduced to caricatures during the utilization. As the theme says, these characters fit like the screw bolt in order to join the prototype but rattle unnecessarily through the plot. The film doesn’t touch the political arc displaying the political dimensions of the mission and as a result, the social gathering of the film doesn’t rise to ascertain the turbulence caused by the deaths. The character of Corey Stoll, played by Buzz Aldrin exists in the film in order to confirm with the history. The death of Elliot See plays a role in shaping the mission for Neil and how he would agree on it. They share both professional and personal space in the film. But Elliot character seems to be sketched in hurry without imparting the soul to have a desire consequence on the psyche of the lead.
Coming to the character of Neil, he is shown as an introverted person who is stoic and having a difficult time dealing with the personal losses. Ryan Gosling internalizes and assimilates the character during the grieving and the expression helps to make it look like one. He gives a compelling and understated performance as Neil that you can’t help but commend him on how beautifully he has been managing to give us this show. Janet Shearon, who plays Neil’s wife is a revelation as a character which has substance and which is fleshed out with extreme respect. As a nervous wreck, he is constantly shown lighting the cigarettes. She is wistful for a normal life but she puts her choices and career ahead of her as he burdens herself with extreme fear. He wants to escape from Neil because of the imbalance in the relation. Firstman, on a whole, is a cathartic experience and a historical event which should be revisited. The exploration of the film goes beyond the possibilities as it gives a new perspective of the universe. The film falls short of all types of greatnesses because of the narrative and doesn’t do justice to the emotional turbulence of the man.