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Wick's Review

Created Nov 03, 2018 01:26PM PST • Edited Dec 17, 2018 03:45AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Very Good 3.5

    First Man is a forced march, joyless despite the profoundly joyous – if harrowing – adventure it chronicles. One disaster or near-disaster after another, and then … triumph. Some of this stems from the nearly inchoate mid-century man that was Neal Armstrong and some from his joyless marriage. Were those related conditions? It only takes one small step to reach that conclusion.

    Neil and his first wife had good reason to be profoundly sad. This well rounded biopic includes the tragic cancer death of their little daughter. And yet, it’s not just the First Man to Walk on the Moon who is a grind. Most everyone around him are portrayed that way, not least his boss, legendary astronaut Deke Slayton.

    In any case, Armstrong’s deep seated reticence and joyless affect explains why he eschewed publicity after becoming a global superstar. First Man also sheds light on his pre-Apollo 11 NASA career, which was largely unknown to me, as were the frequent mishaps that occurred in the space program.

    Now for some poetic justice. Jim Lovell never got his due as an astronaut because Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11 inadvertently monopolized most of the attention the public could muster for NASA. And yet Apollo 13 is a much better movie than First Man: more entertaining, more gripping, more human.

  3. Very Good 3.5

    Ryan Gosling is well suited to play Neil Armstrong, a man of few words. Gosling is better the fewer words he says. And yet he’s not great in the role, the first time I’ve ever felt that about a Gosling performance.

    • Claire Foy’s role as Janet Armstrong, Neil’s first wife, is largely to express her displeasure.
    • Jason Clarke as the doomed Ed White, Neil’s friend and neighbor
    • Kyle Chandler is super hardass as Deke Slayton, one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts, who became NASA’s first Chief of the Astronaut Office.
    • Corey Stoll plays Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon during Apollo 11.
  4. Male Stars Very Good 3.5
  5. Female Stars Very Good 3.5
  6. Female Costars Very Good 3.5
  7. Male Costars Very Good 3.5
  8. Very Good 3.5

    The film has been roundly criticized for not showing Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin planting the American flag on the moon. I wish it had, but the movie was so tightly edited that the entire moon landing scene totaled perhaps 20 minutes. Plus, it’s so procedural that even “One small step” seems anticlimactic.

  9. Direction Very Good 3.5
  10. Play Good 3.0
  11. Music Really Great 4.5
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0
  13. Content
  14. Tame 1.3
  15. Sex Innocent 1.0
  16. Violence Fierce 1.8
  17. Rudeness Polite 1.0
  18. Glib 1.1

    First Man appears to hew close to the actual facts of Neil Armstrong’s life and legendary career.

    Now for some observations about the First Man himself.

    • Armstrong was a Mad Men-era American man, largely inchoate other than blurting out the most poetic line in American history when the moment met the man.
    • His unhappy marriage proves yet again Tolstoy’s dictum that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.4
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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