First Man review

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‘First Man’ takes place in 1965 and tells the historic event of Neil Armstrong, who was the first man to walk on the moon during the apollo 11 mission. The movie is based off of his biography titled “First Man: The life of Neil A. Armstrong,” written by James. R Hansen.

The Film stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and Claire Foy as Janet Shearon, Neil Armstrong’s wife at the time. The movie captures the most intimate and important details of Neil’s life before and during the apollo 11 mission.

In the movie before Neil even get introduced to the apollo 11 mission he unfortunately loses his daughter to cancer. After her death, Neil relocates his family to Houston. TX where he takes on the “Project Gemini.” The project that started it all, to get to the moon.

In the movie Neil seems to throw himself into this project as a way to deal or not deal with his daughters death. The movie captures the emotional journey of these missions for not only Neil but his family, and other astronauts and their families who took these life threatening risk.

Neil becomes close friends with astronauts Elliot See and Ed White who both unfortunately die while working on project gemini. With more loses to bear Neil works himself even harder to make the mission to the moon happen. Even though Neil is highly motivated in the mission, it takes a toll on his personal life. He shuts himself out from his wife and kids and throws himself into work insteading of dealing with the loss of his daughter and friends.

“If I were to write a short story of Neil [Armstrong] going to the moon, it would be about loss.” Said First Man screenwriter Josh Singer.

Karen’s death really sets the course of this movie. After her funeral Neil locks himself in his office and cries for a little instead of showing how he feels around his family. I think this speaks volume into another message that it’s okay for men to feel vulnerable and cry if they feel like it. When Neil starts bonding with Elliot and Ed, Neil has a hard time opening up to them. It’s revealed to Janet and the audience that Neil did not tell his friends about Karen at all. The realism of how loss affects us and our families stood out more than anything. We all deal with loss in different ways and yet same ways too. With his daughters death and other astronauts death after failed mission attempts; The pressure with trying to get to the moon and come home safely to his family is almost to much for Neil as for his wife Janet.

“That’s the thing with Jan. When she was angry, when she did feel something was wrong, when she felt moved to speak, she did,” Said actress Claire Foy about portraying Janet.

Janet’s Journey represents of  how wives of these astronauts dealt with the fact that their husbands and father of their children may not be coming back and in most missions the men never came home. Janet’s role in the film and real life showed the struggles for the families back on earth. Throughout the film Janet is struggling to help her husband as he shuts her out. Neil comes home wrecked day after day and Janet feels helpless not knowing what to do. Janet reaches her breaking point during the night before Neil leaves for the apollo 11 mission. While Neil is packing, Janet realizes their children do not know the extent of Neil’s mission. That there is a strong possibility that he won’t return. Janet lashes out rightfully so and tells Neil that he will sit the kids down and tell them everything they need to know. I admired Janet and the other wives of the astronauts in the movie. Janet continues to support her husband and watch after her kids while she stands by and watches Neil takes life threatening risks. What she does and other spouses do in this situation is very difficult. Having to stay strong while knowing there is a huge possibility their spouses won’t return.  

A pivotal scene in the movie in my opinion was a short one that took the focus off of the mission was when they featured black citizens crowded around listening to Gil Scott-Heron singing ‘whitey’s on the moon.’

“Despite all these problems, we’re supposed to celebrate this achievement that has nothing to do with the lives of real Americans,” Marcus Baram, author of the biography “Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man,” said of the poet’s mind-set. “It was a tumultuous time — the war, people dying overseas. And all of a sudden, you have this random event where tens of millions of dollars [are] used to send this guy to the moon.”

Getting onto the moon was a success and very important  moment in history for NASA and all of America but there were some negative effects due to the costs it took for these astronauts to get on the moon.

The project of getting a man to the moon cost lots, which the government was more than happy to pay for but they couldn’t help and fund for struggling citizens, specifically black citizens.

This movie doesn’t try to sugarcoat over the issues that occured due to the mission. Even though the ‘Whitey’s on the moon’ scene is short it’s very impactful to the plot.

My favorite scene in this movie was when Neil is on the moon. The whole built up and everything he’s been through to get to this one moment. It’s dead silent as neil walks on the moon. As I sat in the theater I wondered how Neil felt when he took his first steps on the moon, I wonder if it was worth it, all the pain and loss of his friends. The stress of the mission. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to be on the moon. Space is incredibly fascinating. So my hope is that Neil felt accomplished as much as he deserved on the moon.

While Neil is on the moon he leaves his daughters bracelet on the moon, this scene was not biographical, no one knows for sure what Neil did with his daughter’s bracelet in real life. But in the movie him leaving the bracelet on space gave Neil closure and peace, and I hope that Neil got that in real life.

First Man’ captures these real life historical events on screen beautifully. Showing what we can not picture in our heads from reading about these events. How real this process was for everyone involved in Apollo 11 including project Gemini and the families back at home. The movie in my opinion was a bit slow but necessary to give the feeling of time passing and the anticipation of Apollo 11.

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