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First Man

USA 2018. Dir: Damien Chazelle. 142 min. DCP

Whiplash and La La Land director Damien Chazelle’s admirable, affecting biopic of astronaut Neil Armstrong, “first man” of the historic Apollo 11 lunar mission, downplays hagiography and hardware in favour of more intimate human dimensions of heroism, hard work, sacrifice, and sorrow. Ryan Gosling’s Armstrong is a stoic, buttoned-up man harbouring a deep grief (a grief which, at the time, was not part of the public story). That stoicism, an asset perhaps in so perilous a line of work, strains Armstrong’s relations with wife Janet (The Crown’s Claire Foy) and their children. Chazelle’s surprisingly somber film, adapted from James R. Hansen’s book, was assailed by some American trolls (and Trump) for being insufficiently patriotic. First Man nods to Apollo’s questionable politics and unconscionable financial costs — Gil Scott-Heron (played by Leon Bridges) sings “Whitey on the Moon” — but also captures the magic and grandeur of this momentous human triumph.


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REVIEWS

"Powerfully moving and quietly profound."

The Guardian | full review

"Astonishing. The definitive take on a monumental moment in history — without ever losing sight of the man underneath the visor."

Empire | full review