WHAT I LIKED: After three incredible feature films about dreams, Damien Chazelle has decided to turn his head to the story of Niel Armstrong's moon landing with 'First Man,' but what's surprising about this movie is that it's not really about dreams at all, but is instead about loneliness and detachment. Yes by brilliantly painting a picture of Niel's longing to be alone with his personal problems and how space provides a perfectly lonely distraction, what you get is a film that centres around a man who's distant from his family and friends both emotionally and literally. That makes for an interesting character study on the one hand and an interesting look at the way different people deal with tragedy, but it also makes for a very lonely and isolating movie overall as Chazelle works hard to create an atmosphere of isolation and emptiness.
The way he does that is rather ballsy with visual techniques over excessive dialogue and the brilliant choice of a theremin in Justin Hurwitz's soundtrack, but it's not just there where Chazelle shines as the flying sequences are arguably the real production gems of the movie as the precariousness of the technology is extremely tangible and every jolt of the fragile nuts and bolts is felt. This all makes the inevitable final act all the more amazing, and when you couple that with the dreamy execution of the landing itself, in the end the film makes further proof of the fact that Chazelle is a real force to be reckoned with no matter what kind of movie he applies himself to.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: There are no real emotional punches in the film, and whilst that's not because it's devoid of heart or character meaning, you can't help feeling that other lead actors might have added a little more to the nuanced lonely man brief.
VERDICT: A film that uses Niel Armstrong's personal problems and the emptiness of space to translate a narrative about loneliness and detachment, Damien Chazelle's 'First Man,' is an amazing and relatively unusual film from this incredible young talent.