First Man is a slow burn

Photo via Universal Pictures

By: Hugh Brown

“First Man” is Ryan Gosling’s newest biopic about Neil Armstrong and his mission to get to the Moon. A feat in CGI and realistic space depictions,  the film is bogged down by a lengthy runtime, boring character drama and a flat main character.

First man is a tough movie to watch. On the one hand, it is an incredibly interesting story with high stakes and amazing cinematography. On the other hand, Ryan Gosling was a questionable choice for the lead. The first third of the film is bogged down entirely by human drama that is not interesting and has very little payoff later on, and Gosling’s acting doesn’t help.While Gosling’s signature stoic acting does him wonders in films like “Drive” (2011), in this film it feels off-putting.

The scenes involving Neil Armstrong’s family, comprising a large chunk of the run time, did not add any tension to the story, instead just adding to the runtime and boring the audience. With kids that behave like his, it makes sense that Armstrong was so set on going to another planet. On top of that, it’s a tiring trope to see the “stressed out wife create drama.” In numerous films and television shows there is a male character about to do something risky and a wife who sits at home yells at him to “think of your family!” It’s a real problem, of course, but at this point it is overplayed.

The CGI and effects were amazing. Coming out of films like “Gravity” (2013), “Interstellar” (2014) and “The Martian” (2015), it’s nice to see a film where not one single shot looked like it was done on a computer. Zero gravity scenes in films have looked great since 1995’s “Apollo 13” but this film in particular stands out as great.

All of the space scenes are filmed inside of the shuttle and feel claustrophobic and stressful, which was amazing. There were very few exterior shots of anything while the characters were in space, which helps you feel like you’re there with them.

If there is any one thing this movie deserves an Oscar for, it’s sound design. This movie, from the very first scene, sounds amazing. Sound design is normally an overlooked part of filmmaking, but this film does it so well it’s hard not to appreciate.

See “First Man” in theaters now.

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