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One giant leap: Rashid Irani reviews First Man

The movie spans the eight years between 1961 and 1969 that led to the test pilot-turned-astronaut Neil Armstrong’s historic journey to the moon.

mumbai Updated: Oct 11, 2018 16:14 IST
Rashid Irani
Rashid Irani
Hindustan Times
Damien Chazelle,Ryan Gosling,Claire Foy
Like the iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), First Man, starring Ryan Gosling (above) too will have a lasting impact

With this majestic moon-landing drama, celebrated young auteur Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) consolidates his reputation as one of contemporary cinema’s finest filmmakers.

FIRST MAN
  • Direction: Damien Chazelle
  • Actors: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy
  • Rating: 5/5

Derived from an authorised biography of Neil Armstrong, the audaciously structured narrative spans the eight years between 1961 and 1969 that lead to the test pilot-turned-astronaut’s historic first moonwalk.

From an awe-inspiring opening sequence, shot almost entirely from the vantage point of the cockpit of a malfunctioning fighter jet, to its heart-wrenching finale, First Man sustains a sense of wonder seldom attained by movies in the outer space sub-genre.

Devoting as much time to the edge-of-the-seat depictions of manned missions as he does to the interactions between Armstrong and his family and colleagues, Chazelle’s command over the visual medium is especially evident in his use of extreme close-ups and the juxtaposition of lengthy takes with an array of subliminally brief shots.

It would be a real shame if the technical prowess of the director’s collaborators (cinematographer Linus Sandgren, production designer Nathan Crowley and film editor Tom Cross) were not acknowledged by the Oscars next year.

Cheers are also due to the impeccable ensemble, led by Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy as the celebrity, if seemingly conflicted, couple. A dinner-table conversation with their two young children on the eve of the Apollo 11 blast off is emotionally shattering.

The importance of family in everyone’s life is succinctly summed up by Chazelle who said, “To me the film became about somebody who had to go to the Moon in order to land on Earth”. Even Stanley Kubrick would have approved. Like his iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), First Man too will have a lasting impact.

First Published: Oct 11, 2018 16:14 IST