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There have been astronaut movies before, good Apollo 13 and better The Right Stuff.

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But few have been as much a triumph of the imagination fueled, not by FX but by indelible feeling, as this one. Hansen, makes something fresh, fallible and flesh-and-blood of its real-life cosmic pioneer. He was doing a job, sure, but it was a job that could kill him. He knew it; his family knew it, his fellow astronauts knew it.

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But America blinked, dazzled by the bells and whistles. Chazelle takes the perceived glamor of space exploration and shoves it into a tin can. And things are not any less claustrophobic and scary when they climbs into the real thing. You feel woozy and on puke alert just watching it.

The team behind ‘First Man’ aims to de-mythologize the space program

Chaffee Corey Michael Smith blowing up in the cockpit during preflight testing for first-manned Apollo mission. Kennedy earlier in the decade. In effect writing the check that Neil Armstrong , Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins would cash a half-dozen years after his death, Kennedy vowed to send astronauts to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard. All of this is a daunting challenge — nowhere near as perilous or costly as Apollo itself, of course, but in its way a mirror of that undertaking.

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Chazelle is an ambitious filmmaker who makes films about ambition. His recent features constitute a kind of trilogy on the subject, each one larger in scale and grander in scope than the one before. Armstrong, a husband and father embedded in an organization that rewards both individual initiative and regimental discipline, completes the sequence.


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Chazelle, already the youngest winner of an Oscar for directing, has always set his sights on the Hollywood mainstream. Its nostalgia — for a suburban, middle-class social order of crew-cut dads, stay-at-home moms, station wagons and cigarettes, and also for idealistic, robustly funded federal-government programs — is palpable.

His Penelope — loyal, anxious, angry, exhausted — is Janet Claire Foy, trading in her plummy royal diction for flattened Midwestern vowels. She moves to Houston with her husband and their two young sons after Neil is accepted into the Gemini program. Chazelle — understandably — makes the moon landing the climax and the glorious main event.


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It is a movie packed with wonderful vehemence and rapture: it has a yearning to do justice to this existential adventure and to the head-spinning experience of looking back on Earth from another planet. There is a great shot of Armstrong looking down, stupefied, at the sight of his first boot-print on the moon dust, realising what that represents.

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It is also a film that downgrades the patriotic fervour of the landing. Armstrong and his comrades are certainly shown to be deeply nettled by news of initial Soviet triumphs in the space race, but Chazelle abolishes the planting of the stars and stripes on the moon. Again, a slightly less reverent film would have shown Armstrong shyly honing that phrase, maybe going through pencil-and-paper drafts.

Not here. The mystery of its composition is left untouched.

First Man Documentary (2018)

Gosling gives a performance of muscular intelligence and decency as Armstrong, a man of calm and restraint, lacking what no one in the s called emotional intelligence. The film suggests that this absence of a normal human boiling point is vital to his success: he stays cool and focused in the spacecraft under conditions that would reduce most people to a blinding panic.


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