Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FILM REVIEWS - Lee Alexan­der McQueen Ryan Gosling as Neil Arm­strong and Luke Win­ters as his son Rick San­dra Bul­lock as Deb­bie Claire Foy as Janet Arm­strong and Kyle Chan­dler as Deke Slay­ton

ACADEMY Award-win­ning di­rec­tor Damien Chazelle takes one gi­ant leap for im­mer­sive, nail-bit­ing film-mak­ing in this thrilling drama­ti­sa­tion of the space race be­tween Amer­ica and the Soviet Union.

Based on James R Hansen’s of­fi­cial bi­og­ra­phy of Neil Arm­strong, First Man shoots for the moon and touches down beau­ti­fully by plac­ing us along­side as­tro­nauts in their claus­tro­pho­bic mod­ules or next to ner­vous NASA staff as they pro­pel mankind into the great un­known.

Hand­held cam­er­a­work, un­ob­tru­sive spe­cial ef­fects and daz­zling sound de­sign leave us stranded hun­dreds of miles above terra firma in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to Alfonso Cuaron’s Grav­ity, at the mercy of new-fan­gled tech­nol­ogy and luck. The ten­sion is al­most un­bear­able.

Chazelle mas­ter­fully en­cour­ages us to hold our breath and bite our nails down to the cu­ti­cle with bold vis­ual flour­ishes and un­der­stated, pow­er­house per­for­mances from Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy as the hus­band and wife at the epi­cen­tre of the 1969 lu­nar land­ing.

The en­sem­ble cast, which in­cludes Kyle Chan­dler, Ja­son Clarke and Ciaran Hinds, counts down to heart­break­ing emo­tion, re­mind­ing us of the in­cred­i­ble brav­ery of pioneers who sac­ri­ficed their r lives in the pur­suit of a brave e new sci­en­tific dawn.

First Man is a tour-de-force e of tech­ni­cal bril­liance, in­clud­ing ng ed­i­tor Tom Cross, cin­e­matog­ra­pher Li­nus Sand­gren and com­poser Justin Hur­witz, who added Os­cars to their re­spec­tive man­tel­pieces for their col­lab­o­ra­tions with Chazelle on Whiplash or La La Land.

Josh Singer’s finely cal­i­brated script fol­lows Neil Arm­strong (Gosling), his wife Janet (Foy) and their boys Rick (Luke Win­ters) and Mark (Con­nor Blod­gett) through the tri­umphs and set­backs of NASA mis­sions dur­ing the 1960s, cul­mi­nat­ing in the Apollo 11 launch which se­cured a place in his­tory for Arm­strong, Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll) and Michael Collins (Lukas Haas).

The film chooses a chrono­log­i­cal tra­jec­tory, sketch­ing Neil’s close work­ing re­la­tion­ships with NASA chief Deke Slay­ton (Kyle Chan­dler) and fel­low as­tro­naut Ed White (Ja­son Clarke), who be­comes the first Amer­i­can to walk in space.

Tragedy casts a long shadow over the Arm­strongs. The cou­ple strug­gle to cope with the death of their young daugh­ter Karen and then the fam­ily shares the bur­den of grief when the Apollo 1 mis­sion ends in dis­as­ter.

“We need to fail down here so we don’t fail up there,” coolly as­serts Neil.

First Man is an out-of-this-world ex­pe­ri­ence that will be a se­ri­ous con­tender for glory in next year’s hard-fought Os­cars race.

Gosling sub­tly yet mov­ingly con­veys the suf­fo­cat­ing grief, which fol­lows Arm­strong to the sur­face of the moon, and Foy is com­pelling in a smaller sup­port­ing role, re­fus­ing to ac­cept that the bril­liant minds of NASA have every­thing un­der con­trol.

“You’re a bunch of boys mak­ing mod­els out of balsa wood,” she rages. “You don’t have any­thing un­der con­trol!”

Chazelle, on the other hand, is firmly in charge of ev­ery sparkling frame.

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