First Man: epic en­ter­tain­ment

Broome Advertiser - - Happenings -

Ryan Gosling does his best to dial down his star power in First Man, in which he plays as­tro­naut Neil Arm­strong with un­smil­ing ret­i­cence and sto­icism.

Based on James R. Hansen’s bi­og­ra­phy of the same name, this ab­sorb­ing, metic­u­lously de­tailed chron­i­cle of Arm­strong’s ca­reer — cul­mi­nat­ing with the Apollo 11 NASA mis­sion, dur­ing which he be­came the first man to walk on the moon — con­tin­u­ally un­der­cuts the story’s in­her­ent triumphalism and myth-mak­ing.

Like its pro­tag­o­nist, First Man doesn’t go in for the­atrics or gra­tu­itous emo­tion, how­ever jus­ti­fied. It gets the job done, with pro­fes­sion­al­ism, im­mer­sive au­then­tic­ity and un­adorned feel­ing, of which Arm­strong him­self might just have ap­proved, how­ever ap­pre­hen­sively.

First Man pre­pares view­ers for the ex­pe­ri­ence they’re about to have from its first mo­ments, when Arm­strong — a gifted aero­nau­ti­cal en­gi­neer and Korean War fly­ing ace — is fly­ing a hy­per­sonic X-15 air­craft over the Mo­jave Desert in 1961.

With shaky close-ups and a deaf­en­ing roar, direc­tor Damien Chazelle (work­ing from a script by Josh Singer) never pulls back as Arm­strong bounces off the at­mos­phere, fran­ti­cally try­ing to bring the plane safely to ground.

Of course, Arm­strong him­self isn’t fran­tic. It’s au­di­ence mem­bers who are likely to find them­selves pulling back in their seats or lurch­ing to one side or an­other as his un­seen, col­lec­tive co-pi­lot.

It’s a har­row­ing se­quence, full of dizzy­ing, dis­ori­ent­ing close-ups and swirling gad­getry.

First Man may not wear its heart on its sleeve but it trusts the au­di­ence to find it on their own, in a qui­eter and more re­flec­tive place.

Pic­ture: Bloomberg

Ryan Gosling is a re­luc­tant hero as Neil Arm­strong.

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