From Damien Chazelle, the director of Whiplash (2014) and La La Land (2016) where Justin Hurwitz’s score drove the narrative, it’s a giant leap for Chazelle with First Man, which puts Hurwitz into a subtle yet effective zone. From two musicals to a space biopic, it’s a long way to travel yet Chazelle makes it look like a lyrical exploration. But, the real challenge lies upon Screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight & The Post), who pens down a personal exploration – it captivates exploration in all possible ways whether its personal, national and emotional. Based on First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, Josh Singer realises the spirit of “personal is universal”.
First Man chronicles Neil A. Armstrong’s life from 1961, the Mojave Desert to 1969, stepping on the moon – it’s a rising horizon amidst failures in terms of technological as well as personal. While we’re aware of the popular space mission and the first man to step on the moon, little we know about his life – which for heaven’s sake wasn’t dedicated to America. Neil Armstrong took up the mission to be distracted from the death of his young daughter, like him, First Man looks at a space biopic from a different vantage point. It’s such a complex film which deals with Apollo 11, I ended up concluding Tom Hanks-starrer Apollo 13 to be a puppet show. As much as it celebrates Armstrong, it seeps in a melancholy with silence, tight close-ups of Neil and heart-wrenching human interactions (with Neil and his two sons before leaving).It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the extraordinary miracles-oops-voyages of mankind – First Man stands out from the typical ventures, it leans more towards a lyrical voyage, here, emotional debris is important than space debris. While First Man underplays the USSR competitiveness and patriotic fervour, it ends up without a extravagant sequence of American flag being planted – Josh Singer and Damien Chazelle realise the human nature in true sense. Cinematographer Linus Sandgreen captivates with tight-close ups of Neil Armstrong which tend to reveal an emotional wreckage, while Sandgreen laminates lunar surface sequences like silent vignettes. IMAX experience adds an immersive effect, but it effectively puts the audience into the POV of Armstrong to experience silent yet emotionally chaotic voyage.
Ryan Gosling plays Neil A. Armstrong with stoic, literally burdened with grins and a silent performance. But, its Claire Foy playing Armstrong’s wife who delivers a fierce performance. Damien Chazelle is a young master at direction who refrains from cutting Neil’s epic voyage to Claire’s reaction shots – that’s where he wins it all.
IMAX adds an euphoria as well as petrifies with sonic feel of a spacecraft. Damien Chazelle presents an intimate feature, where claustrophobic intimacy along with psychological pile is rhythmically astounded by stunning visuals. While Neil Armstrong exclaimed “one giant leap for mankind”, Damien Chazelle’s drama with tragic undertones is a leap towards a significant biopic.
Release: 12 October, 2018
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