First Man

The Week (US) - - Arts 23 -

Di­rected by Damien Chazelle First Man “might be the most grounded space movie ever made,” said David Edel­stein in A “stu­pen­dous” Neil Arm­strong biopic that fo­cuses on the eight years lead­ing up to the as­tro­naut’s walk on the moon, it’s la­bo­ri­ous in the best sense—im­mers­ing us in the hard work of pre­par­ing to do the im­pos­si­ble. From the “gut-churn­ing” open­ing se­quence, which dra­ma­tizes a 1961 test flight, we’re also primed to ex­pe­ri­ence, as our hero does, the mis­sion’s ra­zor-thin mar­gin of er­ror. Ryan Gosling’s ad­mirable per­for­mance turns out to be “al­most too sen­si­tive for the movie around it,” said Stephanie Zacharek in Time. His Arm­strong re­mains so preter­nat­u­rally calm, dis­tant, and an­a­lyt­i­cal that dra­matic ten­sion some­times has to be con­veyed with jig­gling cam­eras. The screen­play ties Arm­strong’s sto­icism to his los­ing a 2-year-old daugh­ter to a brain tu­mor in 1962, and the re­peated at­tempts to re­mind us of his sor­row and short­com­ings as a hus­band and father “made me feel pro­tec­tive, posthu­mously, of Arm­strong’s emo­tional pri­vacy.” But as the film speeds to­ward the cli­max we know is com­ing, it tran­scends its pat psy­chol­o­giz­ing, said A.A. Dowd in When Arm­strong takes his fa­bled first step onto the dusty lu­nar sur­face, there are no cut­aways to mis­sion con­trol, no swelling or­ches­tral strings—only si­lence. “For a few beau­ti­ful min­utes, it’s just Neil, the majesty of the galaxy, and the thoughts the film leaves un­said.”

Gosling: A stoic in space

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