McCann At The Movies: ‘First Man’ Is A Riveting Personal Story Of A Global Event

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John McCann says Claire Foy shines in the retelling of the moon landing with Ryan Gosling in fine form too…

It is hard to believe that this is only Damien Chazelle’s third feature film.

What is even more astonishing is that his other two features Whiplash and La la land have seen him both win (Best Director for La la land) and be nominated (Best Adapted Screenplay for Whiplash) and he is still only 33 years old.

A high bar had indeed been set before Chazelle attempted to take on the global phenomenon of the first moon landing to add to his already decorated back catalogue.

‘First Man’ is the riveting story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the years 1961-1969 in particular.

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A visceral, first-person account, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the movie explores the sacrifices and the cost on Armstrong personally and on the nation of one of the most dangerous missions in history.

Taking a personal look at a huge event in world history was a risk, but one that this film maker was well capable of pulling off, especially when surrounded by a stellar cast all delivering top notch performances.

Ryan Gosling in ‘First Man’.

Ciaran Hinds, Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler all add their considerable talents to the production, but it is the steely nature of Ryan Gosling that captures pioneer Neil Armstrong’s essence to perfection.

His grit, determination and anguish portrayed quite brilliantly by one of Hollywood’s most talented actors, yet even he is upstaged by the remarkable Clare Foy who plays Armstrong’s wife Janet.

Foy proving that Lady Gaga may have some stiff competition come Oscar time for producing a performance that is the very heartbeat of the film as she grapples with the challenges that face her family.

Atheistically shot to catapult the viewer back to the age of space exploration, this is a deeply personal, slow-paced film that may not be to everyone’s tastes but gives a well known event a unique and compelling angle, one that has never been seen before.

As can be commonplace with movies these days, it is a tad overlong at two hours 20 minutes but arguably this gives the story the necessary time to grasp and grip its attentive audience.

Overall, ‘First Man’ cements Chazelle’s claim as one of Tinseltown’s finest directors and is sure to gain plaudits for the director come awards season.


• For more of John McCann’s movie reviews, check out his Facebook page here and website here

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