'First Man' reveals Neil Armstrong's journey

Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, and director Damien Chazelle discuss 'First Man,' which shows us what it took to reach the moon. David Daniel reports.

Posted: Oct 11, 2018 1:20 PM
Updated: Oct 11, 2018 1:30 PM

If stoic heroism sounds pretty good right about now, "First Man" lands at a welcome time. The "La La Land" reunion of Ryan Gosling and director Damien Chazelle produces a soaring, IMAX-worthy look at Neil Armstrong's life in the decade leading up to the moon landing, providing a reminder that fulfilling John F. Kennedy's vision was as much about grit, guts and determination as any feat of engineering.

Owing a considerable debt to "The Right Stuff," the 1983 movie about the Mercury 7 astronauts, "First Man" introduces Armstrong as a steely test pilot, albeit one who is at a bit of a crossroads when he's accepted into the astronaut corps. After the devastating loss of a child, the change could offer "a fresh start," his wife ("The Crown's" Claire Foy, regal in an entirely different manner) tells him.

What ensues from there, though, is a tale of trial and error, of additional death and quiet grief as these men in their not-always-magnificent flying machines try to break Earth's bonds. The misfires, the taciturn Armstrong notes in a rare display of emotion, serve a purpose -- "We need to fail down here so we don't fail up there" -- which doesn't make the casualties any less devastating.

Perhaps foremost, Chazelle (working from a script by "Spotlight's" Josh Singer, adapted from James R. Hansen's book) seeks to bring a sense of awe, of wonder, to what these men braved. As a consequence, many of the flight sequences are shot in dizzying closeups, capturing the physical impact on the astronauts, before pulling back to reveal the gaping majesty of space.

Technically, "First Man" is a dazzling accomplishment, from the cinematography to the musical score by another "La La Land" alum, Justin Hurwitz, which is alternately haunting and stirring. Chazelle clearly wants to put the audience in Armstrong's shoes -- both on Earth and the Moon -- to provide a taste of the adrenaline rush and terror these endeavors required.

The buttoned-up nature of the character puts Gosling to the test, but he conveys a great deal with mere glances and expressions, some of them directed at his colleague Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), who has a way of saying what everyone's thinking, even if, as Armstrong notes, he might be better off just shutting up. The supporting cast includes Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler, as strong, silent, unemotive types abound.

While the movie definitely plunges into the romance surrounding space exploration, "First Man" also wonderfully and economically sheds light on the era, including budding skepticism about the Apollo program in the late '60s, as the antiwar movement grew in power and intensity.

Speaking of domestic politics, it's hard to think of a more inflated "controversy" than the one that greeted the movie's arrival on the festival circuit, with cries of outrage about the omission of planting the American flag by people who hadn't seen the movie. Suffice it to say American ingenuity, the race against the Soviet Union and, yes, flags, are all over the screen, albeit in a subtle way that keeps the focus squarely on the protagonist and the mission.

Movies, of course, have had a half-century of space-faring science fiction of various stripes since "2001: A Space Odyssey" opened prior to Armstrong's famous "giant leap for mankind," so much so that it's easy to take that final frontier for granted.

Using every modern tool at its disposal, "First Man" has again presented just how harrowing that frontier was at the time, in the process planting its flag among the year's best movies.

"First Man" premieres Oct. 12 in the U.S. It's rated PG-13.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 4243

Reported Deaths: 153
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah116559
Marion96025
Washington73917
Clackamas31211
Deschutes1250
Umatilla1163
Linn1159
Polk9812
Lane733
Yamhill707
Jackson660
Benton555
Clatsop450
Klamath440
Jefferson330
Malheur320
Coos310
Douglas270
Wasco241
Josephine231
Hood River180
Columbia160
Lincoln120
Morrow110
Curry70
Union60
Tillamook60
Crook60
Wallowa20
Lake20
Sherman10
Harney10
Grant10
Baker10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 111951

Reported Deaths: 4172
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles550012362
Riverside7486323
San Diego7481269
Orange6261147
San Bernardino5246204
Alameda339096
Santa Clara2776141
San Francisco258842
Kern225038
San Mateo210484
Tulare184484
Fresno174335
Santa Barbara164912
Imperial163427
Contra Costa145037
Sacramento140056
Ventura107833
San Joaquin85834
Kings7464
Stanislaus74429
Sonoma5534
Monterey53010
Solano51722
Marin48314
Merced2837
San Luis Obispo2691
Placer2159
Santa Cruz2132
Yolo21124
Napa1123
Madera1062
Humboldt1013
El Dorado900
San Benito872
Sutter462
Del Norte450
Butte440
Nevada411
Shasta394
Mono371
Mendocino300
Yuba301
Lake210
Inyo201
Amador190
Mariposa161
Glenn160
Calaveras150
Siskiyou70
Colusa50
Lassen50
Tuolumne40
Plumas40
Tehama41
Alpine20
Trinity10
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 75°
Brookings
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 62°
Crater Lake
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 67°
Grants Pass
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 72°
Klamath Falls
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 67°
Warm Monday, isolated showers
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events