First Man ★★★★

While this may not be Damien Chazalle's best or second best film, it is still one of the best of this year. The man is a master of tension. And that's a hard enough feat when dealing with historical/true-life subject matter.

Perhaps a bit too long and over-reliant on handheld shaky-cam, First Man manages to soar above your typical biopic. Boasting a stupendous score from Justin Hurwitz, the film is small and tender, while at the same time loud, thrilling, and claustrophobic. One of the biggest takeaways here is Chazelle's success in depicting the early days of space travel as men volunteering to climb into death machines.

I found Ryan Gosling's performance very impressive, but Claire Foy nearly steals the show as Janet, Neil Armstrong's proud and diligent wife, ever so tired of Armstrong's aloofness and disinterest in fatherhood and husbandly presence. It would have been great to get some deep inner turmoil in Armstrong's character in terms of his personal fears and his marital strains. We get slight hints of that, but the bulk of the film is dedicated to showing how Armstrong felt the need to see through the Apollo series of missions for the lives lost working to realize them.

For about the first half of this movie there was something about it that wasn't quite working for me, but a key moment in the final minutes made me realize all the necessary seeds had been planted for Chazelle to earn that beautiful ending.

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