No 2018 release has spent more time as a presumed Best Picture contender than First Man. Damien Chazelle’s follow up to La La Land was thought to be an Academy Award player ever since it was first announced. After all, Chazelle was re-teaming with star Ryan Gosling and much of his creative team that helped his previous film to a half dozen Oscar wins. Throw in Whiplash and every movie Chazelle has made since his feature debut has not only gotten nominations, but victories as well. Still, it would be easy to look for a disappointment, or a blotch on his record. You won’t find that here though, as the flick is outstanding. Opening this week, it’s going to blow people away. Simply put, it’s one of the year’s very best films.
In case you’re unaware, a brief recap of what First Man is about. The movie is a biopic of Neil Armstrong, arguably the world’s most famous astronaut. Gosling obviously plays Armstrong, while at home Claire Foy portrays his wife Janet. After a tragedy involving their young daughter, Neil dives head on into the space program, seeking to find something he’s lost. Initially, the mission to the moon is all but a pipe dream, but then slowly, it comes into focus. However, that comes at a great cost, both in terms of money and lives. Then, it’s finally time for Neil to take his place in history, and among the stars. Chazelle directs a script written by Josh Singer. The cast also includes Christopher Abbott, Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke, Ethan Embry, Patrick Fugit, Olivia Hamilton, Lukas Haas, Ciarán Hinds, Brian d’Arcy James, Pablo Schreiber, Brady Smith, Cory Michael Smith, Corey Stoll, Kris Swanberg, and Shea Whigham, among others. Behind the camera is Linus Sandgren, while Tom Cross edits and Justin Hurwitz composes the score for Chazelle. All involved turn in top tier work.
This is a fantastic film, with stunning work all around. Chazelle once again displays flawless filmmaking skills, while Gosling has rarely been better. The former manages to make a potentially clinical story both grounded and emotional, while also never losing sight of the science at play. As for the latter, this is a role perfectly suited to his internal acting capabilities. Gosling does so much with his eyes. He builds up a well of emotion that the audience then releases, especially in one climactic scene at the end. Don’t sleep on Foy either, who is wonderful and probably has Best Supporting Actress locked down (more on that next). From their work to Cross’ editing and Sandgren’s cinematography, not to mention Hurwitz’s score, this is all phenomenal. In many ways, it’s a perfect flick. Technically proficient, well acted, and builds to an amazing crescendo. Especially in IMAX, it becomes a magical spectacle.
As it stands now, First Man seems like a good bet to be one of the most nominated movies by the Academy this year. Look for contention in Best Picture, Best Director (for Chazelle), Best Actor (for Gosling), Best Supporting Actor (for Chandler and/or Clarke), Best Supporting Actress (for Foy), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Singer), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. A dozen Oscar nominations isn’t out of the question, with ten seeming to be easily attainable. Once again, Chazelle has made something that could score double digit nominations. In fact, this could contend for some major wins too, especially in the Sound categories.
Starting on Friday, audiences can see one of 2018’s best films when First Man opens. We can now begin to have the conversation about where Chazelle stands among his generation’s greats. His direction is beyond reproach. As an aside, any supposed controversy about the American flag is ridiculous…the flag shows up multiple times, including on the moon! Calm down people. This movie is a must see, as it’s as much a thrilling story of enguiniety as it is a traditional biopic. Chazelle and Gosling have something special going here. Make it your business to see this flick as soon as possible. You can thank me later…
Be sure to check out First Man, in theaters everywhere this weekend!