First Man (2018)

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Damien Chazelle directs Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy and Kyle Chandler in this period recreation of Neil Armstrong’s determination and challenges to become the first man on the moon. 

When you have directed two of the very best films of the past decade there is a certain pressure of expectation. Chazelle can’t really be faulted technically, the production is a classy achievement. Yet for the viewer it is unrelentingly mawkish and distant. The earthside drama is fatalist; housing two very different acting styles… the men (Gosling especially) are internalised frustrations and fears, Foy meanwhile chews scenery as the no-nonsense wife. Add a few more swears and she could be doing a parody of Mark Wahlberg’s abrasive cop in The Departed. Neither the domestic conflicts or the space lab politics chime memorably. Everything seems to be building towards a standout moment that never comes. Stunted and somber … Chazelle has gone for a less-is-more approach but the true adventure of this important chapter in modern history is lost to it. When we get to space I found myself adrift, my attention lost. When I did focus it all felt very accomplished but only the actual moon landing had any heart fluttering grip. An adequate experience from a director who has delivered so much more already, with subject matter that should be an easy score, feels like a fumble. Watch The Right Stuff instead.

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