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#TIFF18 Review: First Man

September 14, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Damian Chazelle follows up his Oscar-winnings films Whiplash and La La Land with First Man, a space race drama that follows Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) over seven years as he prepares to become the first man to walk on the moon. The film charts his journey from his time as a test pilot who decided to join NASA’s Project Gemini, showing his somewhat competitive training with Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), and also his home life with his wife Janet (Claire Foy) and their children who miss having their father at home, building up to the actual moon landing in 1969.

I went into this film with maximum excitement, but left a bit bored, for lack of a better word. For me, the film didn’t entirely capture the true sense of excitement that must have gripped America and the world as Armstrong walked on the moon. What we get instead is a fairly conventional biopic and somewhat drab family drama, that becomes an overly impressionistic look at the moon landing itself. Josh Singer’s script offers a meticulous look at the trials and tribulations that went into going to the moon, and at times it feels overly procedural.

While Chazelle’s choice to reimagine man’s trip to the moon through a series of more intimate character moments is a somewhat interesting one, it also didn’t entirely work for me, and I’m not sure if it was really the right approach to telling this story. But the film is well acted by Gosling and the rest of the cast, and it does have some moments that inspire awe. Linus Sandgren’s cinematography is great, showing the grandeur of space with a filmic grain to it that recalls classics like The Right Stuff, and his images make First Man worthy of being seen in IMAX.

Ryan Gosling in First Man

Public Screenings:

Sunday, September 9th – 2:00 PM at Ontario Place Cinesphere

Monday, September 10th – 4:00 PM at Elgin Theatre

Monday, September 10th – 6:00 PM at Roy Thomson Hall

Tuesday, September 11th – 11:00 AM at Princess of Wales Theatre

Wednesday, September 12th – 6:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

Thursday, September 13th – 6:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

Friday, September 14th – 6:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

Saturday, September 15th – 6:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

Saturday, September 15th – 9:30 PM at Princess of Wales Theatre

Sunday, September 16th – 6:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6th to 16th.

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