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TIFF 2018: First Man
September 20, 2018
Before landing with the opportunity to review First Man at this year’s TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), I’d assumed that the first man to set foot on the moon would have had an immensely outgoing and self-confident personality (similar to Buzz Aldrin and Lightyear). For someone that spoke the most famous words in history “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” Neil Armstrong was in fact a quiet, private and introverted character, very reserved and one with few words, which is quite profound.
Having visited Ohio myslef, where Armstrong and his family were from, there was no surprise to me that this State produces more astronauts than any other in America. A place of continuous wide open space and an intricately detailed starlit sky (undisturbed by city lights) was breathtaking. I spent evenings looking up in wonder, just as we see Neil (played by Ryan Gosling) doing at many points in this adaptation. This was his space to be still with his thoughts, voyage into escapism through his telescope from the discomforts of earth and quietly reflect on the heartbreaking memory of his young daughter Karen’s death, that we catch glimpses of throughout.
Academy Award winning Director, Damien Chazelle is onto another winner with this one having created a well detailed and perfectly shaped movie that will send goosebumps down your spine and hands to your mouth. Having used LED’s instead of green screen for this feature, we’re given an epic visual perspective to cinematography, a captivating sense of the 1960’s and you’ll feel completely transported into the depths of outer space unlike ever before. This is ultimately a true story about the realities of risk involved in space travel but also about the risk and sacrifice families lived through in the process.
Although this very authentic story is predominantly about Neil, it’s also a beautiful tribute to his wife, Janet Armstrong (played by Claire Foy), who was strong, courageous and brave in holding this families dynamic together during this thrilling yet unsettling life changing season. She shows strength of character through her vulnerability, especially in the moments where her husband completely shuts down and can’t seem to verbally process his internal fears and grief.
Succeeding in being as close to the real thing as possible here, it was mind blowing to watch the spacemen, all such close friends, sliding on their backs into their claustrophobic Gemini and Apollo shuttles that didn’t even look like they were that finished or secure. Chazelle really transports you and doesn’t hold back with the loud sound effects of clanging turbulent metal on metal, explosions and heightened hazy conversations back to NASA’s Mission Control. The reverse even seems to startle you when there’s suddenly utter silence and they’ve made it through the atmosphere, now floating into the wide open universe.
The moon landing of course is the pinnacle moment that everyone is waiting for and I enjoyed it more than I could have imagined. This for me was largely due to the score by composer Justin Huwitz, who accompanied an epic scene to the most powerful, dramatic and grand of music, being one of the most memorable orchestral pieces I’ve ever heard. It suited the moment so well.
How on earth (or ‘on moon’, I should say) Apollo made it there and back again without fatalities is unfathomable. This film will educate so many people about this remarkable moment in history, and especially about the brave men who risked everything for what they believed space exploration could mean for the future. When you see this (because you must) please promise me you’ll splash and see this in iMax, the bigger the screen the better, it does the true story very proud.
First Man is released through Universal Pictures on the 12th October 2018.
Words by Lisa Coleman @Lisa_D_Coleman
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