Based on the bestselling account of Neil Armstrong’s journey to becoming the first person on the moon,First Man stars Ryan Gosling as the first man on the moon. The film focuses upon the 1961 – 1969 time period when Armstrong goes from a decorated but unknown pilot to one of the most famous men in the world. The story doesn’t just focus on the NASA side of his life but also upon his painful recovery from a loss of close loved one.
First Man is an often dry, necessarily predictable but informationally important film. The problem with movies based upon well-known historical events is that the outcomes are by in large already known. When senior government officials discussed whether the U.S. would move forward with plans to land a man on the moon, viewers knew that answer was yes. When Armstrong applied for the astronaut’s program we all knew he’d be selected.
The movie also tells the story of Armstrong’s home and family life – which is actually pretty boring. Younger viewers expecting to see Star Wars type of adventures will be disappointed.
But the film's value is its references to historical issues. Like how the U.S. space exploration was driven by competition with the Russians and that eight men died in NASA related accidents during the 1960s.
Ryan Gosling is bland in First Man’s leading role. I am not sure if that was his acting or a reflection of Armstrong’s true personality. On the other hand, Claire Foy was outstanding as Armstrong’s wife Janet. She dominated every scene she was in.
As to cast diversity, First Man gets a “C”. To many in this country, this time period from 1961-1969 represents the “good ole days” when women and people of color held few positions of power or authority. However, black men are shown at the launch site and in the command center scenes. And there were no references to the black women featured in Hidden Figures, who played essential roles the space program during that very same time period.
The verdict on the First Man is to wait and Rent It. It’s an interesting film but not compelling enough to rush out and see it now.
It’s Rated PG-13 (for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language). And it is an extremely long 138 minutes.