STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

'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: 21488

Reported Deaths: 357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah496096
Washington311925
Marion293870
Umatilla230228
Clackamas154940
Malheur80414
Deschutes61110
Lane5903
Jackson4732
Yamhill46713
Lincoln4189
Union3942
Morrow3723
Jefferson3714
Polk31912
Linn28410
Klamath2012
Hood River1930
Wasco1923
Benton1696
Douglas1511
Josephine1152
Columbia970
Coos910
Clatsop850
Crook491
Baker400
Tillamook340
Lake320
Wallowa191
Sherman160
Curry150
Harney100
Gilliam40
Grant40
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 574231

Reported Deaths: 10476
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2105434998
Riverside41983820
Orange40527726
San Bernardino36072546
San Diego32975594
Kern24440171
Fresno17846171
Alameda13631209
San Joaquin12864223
Santa Clara12694205
Sacramento12040177
Tulare10862196
Stanislaus10264169
Imperial9693244
Contra Costa9404139
Ventura863492
San Francisco762367
Santa Barbara670469
San Mateo6318120
Merced573670
Monterey544635
Marin540481
Kings445356
Solano427441
Sonoma367047
Madera246339
Placer231922
San Luis Obispo225416
Yolo183444
Santa Cruz12436
Butte12388
Napa107411
Sutter9527
San Benito7654
El Dorado7552
Lassen6830
Yuba6464
Mendocino47210
Shasta45910
Colusa3914
Glenn3603
Nevada3571
Humboldt2864
Tehama2761
Lake2402
Amador1822
Mono1581
Tuolumne1553
Calaveras1471
Inyo1063
Siskiyou1020
Del Norte1000
Mariposa622
Plumas360
Modoc50
Trinity50
Sierra40
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 78°
Brookings
Broken Clouds
53° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 53°
Crater Lake
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 68°
Grants Pass
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 72°
Klamath Falls
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 68°
Cooler and quiet Wednesday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events