First Man


First Man  1/2

It seems that every young filmmaker is currently emulating Terrence Malick, specifically his work in spiritual drama The Tree of Life. Sadly, the latest to suffer from this affliction is 33-year-old Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle, who cribs mercilessly from Malick’s metaphysical masterpiece, whether or not his biopic of Neil Armstrong needs it. Working for the first time from someone else’s script—Josh Singer’s adaptation of James R. Hansen’s book—Chazelle tries to humanize the first man to set foot on the moon. He dramatizes the 1962 death of Armstrong’s 2-year-old daughter, but visions of her haunt the film’s frames straight through to the lunar-set climax. That’s when Armstrong (Ryan Gosling, star of Chazelle’s La La Land, giving an internalized performance) takes that “one small step for man” and “one giant leap for mankind.” Chazelle and cinematographer Linus Sandgren (La La Lands Oscar-winning director of photography) also flirt with heavily edited flashes of Armstrong’s two young boys at play, both indoors and among nature, but these textures amount to a failure to launch Malick’s poeticism. The Crown’s Claire Foy fares well as Neil’s wife, Janet, a woman who keeps her husband grounded when his mind’s not on the moon. But the couple’s relationship—and much of the film’s action—is primarily shot in handheld close-ups. This creative decision results in shaky, claustrophobic footage that risks leaving some viewers wanting to take giant leaps out of the theater. Watch it at Assembly RowBoston CommonFenway, Seaport, South Bay and in the suburbs.

Related Articles

Comments are closed.