Film Review: First Man

First Man recounts the experiences of Neil Armstrong as he aims for the Moon, showing the atmosphere of his home life at the time and the pressure on him in his job at NASA


Neil’s determination and persistence is ever-present throughout the film. Image credit: Daniel McFadden

As a fan of both film and space exploration, this film is a winner. With big names such as director Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling portraying Neil Armstrong, the film is not only dramatic and thrilling, but its accuracy of events, locations, equipment, rockets and the actual Apollo 11 Moon landing itself is phenomenal.

This film isn’t purely about the journey that took man to the Moon for the first time though; the story begins years before that. It tells the story of how Neil Armstrong started off as a test pilot and then went into the astronaut program and progressed through the Gemini project before his Apollo success, documenting the ups and downs in his journey to becoming one of the most well-known names in space exploration.

The film does a fantastic job of sculpting the determination of the United States at the time to reach the Moon, the successes and, more importantly, the failures that led to this historic landmark. With the underlying current of the Space Race with the Soviet Union bubbling under the surface, it also shows Armstrong’s own motivation and the effect it had on his relationships with family and friends.

(From left to right) Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin, Lukas Haas as Mike Collins and Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong prepare to embark on the event that inspired billions of people. Image credit: Daniel McFadden

In terms of scientific accuracy, it is remarkable how accurately this film portrayed the training, the spacecraft and the procedures for spaceflight. It is clear how much effort went into the background research behind this film. One particularly intriguing aspect was in how the film goes against the image that this was the feat of technology and rocketry at the time; it was – but it wasn’t perfect. There were issues along the way, emphasised by the events of Gemini 8, and the film is careful not to leave these obstacles out.

Overall, First Man was a pleasure to watch, and it portrays the first Moon landing in a way that both inspires and educates the entire audience, which is a difficult task to achieve. A comendable performance by both Gosling and Claire Foy, playing Armstrong’s first wife, Janet Shearon, highlights the human emotion behind one of humanity’s greatest scientific achievements to date.

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