Happy Horrothon……wait a minute…this isn’t a horror movie!!! Nope, but it is going to win Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director.
First Man is a biopic of Neil Armstrong from his test pilot days, Gemini missions, Apollo Mission and return home. I was moved. Ryan Gosling inhabited that man’s very soul. I have not seen acting that good in years and years. At every point in the film, you are more on the edge of your seat than you have been in decades. I knew he would land the LEM on the moon, but it was so close to disaster that you felt for him.
The picture opens with Neil doing test piloting. He’s already getting tapped to be in the Gemini missions, but he almost passes. He has a daughter that stricken with cancer and we share in his grief throughout the film’s entirety. I won’t spoil it, but there’s a moment when Neil is on the moon with his late daughter’s bracelet and …. oh man. Once his daughter passes, his wife pushes him to take the Gemini mission and we rapidly see that she is his ROCK! We see it when his daughter passes and when the stress of the burden of achievement weighs upon this Great Man.
The weight of greatness and death is looked dead in the eye in this picture. Brave men are facing and dealing with mortality in nearly every scene. We see that the cost of putting the first man on the moon is paid in blood. So many great men die in this heroic quest that it begins to feel like a Homeric adventure or great tale of an ancient Samurai told through a modern lens. All the while they are struggling to make this great achievement, we hear the familiar whining of lesser men moaning in the background like white noise.
Once it is clear that Neil will be Commander to go to the Man, his wife demands that he explain the risks to his two remaining children. He tells them and we feel his paternal pain twisting in him like a blade because his destiny is set. We get closer to the other two members of his team – one I can’t remember and the other is Buzz Aldrin who is portrayed as complete asshole. I mean…wow…what a dick!
When Neil approaches the moon, the LEM is heading for disaster and fate tempts Neil to abort, but it’s obvious that Neil will succeed or he will die trying. There was no going back empty handed for him. There’s a lesson here: the greatest achievements require sacrifice up to and including your life.
The film allows us to see this amazing quest through the eyes of our greatest American Representative. It is also clear that the Space Race, Humankind’s greatest achievement, was a road that led to victory and was paved with blood.