“First Man” is the fourth film directed by Damien Chazelle and stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, and follows years leading up to Apollo 11, all while intersecting with his personal life.

Let’s start with Neil himself. This very well could be the finest performance of Ryan Gosling’s career. Gosling is known for his quietness and subtlety as an actor, and that element is utilized to utter perfection in this portrayal. His emotional reactions feel completely genuine and elevate the film to a higher level.

Not a single actor disappointed. Claire Foy also delivers a career-defining performance as Janet Armstrong, and the supporting NASA cast gave a strong boost to the film’s realism.

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This is the first time Chazelle did not write the screenplay for a film he directed, and luckily, that did nothing to slow him down. Chazelle’s direction stands out among the rest of his filmography. Nearly the entire film is shot handheld, meaning that the camera is not steady, and is prone to shakiness. I was nervous at first, but quickly realized the purpose behind this decision, and it does nothing to take from the brilliant execution of the film.

The multiple aircraft and space scenes make great work of using the shaky camera, riveting up the tension and taking the audience’s breath away.

As a character study, this is a beautiful memento to Armstrong, giving us a glimpse at the hardships and traumas he endured to make this possible.

My only major critique is the score. Though it worked well in some parts, at others it was rather intrusive, and took away the impact of a couple scenes.

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Also, there are quite a few child actors in the film. As I expected, some of them aren’t great.

Now I’d like to quickly address the “Flag Controversy” surrounding this film, as for some reason, Chazelle’s decision not to include the flag planting scene has made some people rather angry. This is a character study. This film is focused on Armstrong himself, not the country. The redaction of this event did nothing to diminish the movies impact, and, considering the rather large amount of flags present in the film overall, does nothing to stain this historical moment.

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Asides from a few minor complaints, “First Man” was a brilliant and technically flawless film. A safe bet for Awards Season, this is one of the year’s must-sees.

Ryan ParkerComment