By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
the new biopic about astronaut Neil A. Armstrong,
reunites director Damien Chazelle with Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”).
Chazelle and Gosling didn’t miss a beat in “La La Land,” but oddly, “First Man” feels out of sync.
Josh Singer (“Spotlight”) adapted the script from James R. Hansen’s 2005 best-seller “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong.”
And despite the film’s dazzling cinematography, “First Man” feels as cold, dark and empty as outer space. Plus, it’s incredibly long and moves at a snail’s pace.
Gosling plays Neil Armstrong and he does his best to sell the stoic patriot who made history on July 20, 1969 by becoming the first person to walk on the moon. There’s nothing flashy or showy about Armstrong and perhaps that’s part of the problem with the film.
“First Man” focuses primarily on Armstrong’s family life from when he worked as a research engineer for NASA and with the space crew which led to the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
Early on we see Armstrong and his wife Janet (Claire Foy “Unsane” and TV’s “The Crown”) trying to cope with the loss of their young daughter Karen who died from a brain tumor. Karen is tasked with keeping their two young, cantankerous boys in check whenever Armstrong is away from home, which is often.
But, “First Man” rarely makes that emotional connection and investment with viewers. Even a tragedy among Armstrong’s fellow colleagues, Ed White (Jason Clarke, “Winchester” and “Mudbound”) and Elliot See (Patrick Fugit,” Gone Girl”) doesn’t pack the emotional punch that it should.
Other characters fare slightly better such as Deke Slayton (Kyle Chandler, “Game Night”), one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts, who became NASA's first Chief of the Astronaut Office and the cocky Buzz Aldrin (the second man to walk on the Moon during Apollo 11) who is played by Corey Stoll (“Ant-man” and TV’s “The Strain”). They are the most compelling figures among the bunch.
Strangely, you come away from watching this movie with more questions about Neil Armstrong than answers.
With “First Man” Damien Chazelle reaches for the moon, but doesn’t quite achieve a full lift off.
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Check Out This Trailer For "FIRST MAN"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.