On Edge: Anticipating First Man

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Damien Chazelle. Ryan Gosling. Claire Foy. Those names enough should pique your curiosity for any upcoming film. When that film happens to centre on the ground-breaking Apollo 11 mission in 1969 to land on the Moon for the first time in human history, well, then you have my full attention.

Let’s first look at the director. Chazelle is young, and has only put out two feature films, but that those two films were Whiplash and La La Land tells you his kind of calibre. He has an eye for the artistic – La La Land did win the Best Cinematography Oscar, after all – but his talent at conveying human emotion and getting to what really makes his characters tick in his film is also rivalled by only the best. It’ll be interesting to see him turning his lens onto real life figures such as Neil Armstrong (Gosling) and Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), given his two previous efforts centred on entirely made-up characters, but given Chazelle’s track record, I’d be surprised if we don’t gain surprising and deeply fascinating insights into the men and women behind that historic mission.

Meanwhile, Gosling and Foy bring real acting talent to the table, with two Oscar nominations, two Golden Globe wins, and a slew of further award wins and nominations between them. Foy in particular has displayed remarkable acting range as Queen Elizabeth II in the tremendous Netflix drama The Crown, so I can’t wait to see her take on Neil Armstrong’s then-wife, Janet, shedding new light on a historical figure who is unfortunately far less well-known than her prestigious husband. As for Gosling, well, his reputation speaks for itself: any film he touches turns to gold.

And my god, just watch that trailer. Whilst trailers can (and often do) overhype their movies, the footage we are teased with still makes me quietly (or not) optimistic as to the rest of the film’s direction. It looks intense, it looks emotional, it looks dramatic, but most of all – and most importantly for what remains one of the uttermost dangerous missions in human history – it looks edge-of-your pants scary. Not in a Conjuring or Shining kind of way, but more in a Quiet Place kind of way: pure intensity and stress that something, anything, could go wrong and spell disaster. Given Chazelle’s track record and expertise, you can safely expect this underlying feeling of tension to work its way from the trailer to the big screen, and boy does that sound inviting.

So, you have a world-class director, working with world-class acting talent, to tell the story of one of the most perilous yet historic missions humanity has ever undertaken, and you wonder why I’m excited? Quite frankly this film should be on everyone’s radars, not least because it has been chosen to open the prestigious Venice Film Festival, a slot that has hosted such Oscar winners as BirdmanGravity and Black Swan, signalling that Hollywood, at least, considers this film particularly worthy of your attention. But really, at the end of it all, I’m on edge for First Man because it looks to make real an event which, as Chazelle himself noticed, most people under a certain age now “take for granted.”

“You accept that [the Moon landings]happened,” Chazelle recently told Variety. “But the challenge or the hope with this would be to try to play a little bit of a rewind and put you in a mindset where it hasn’t happened yet, and it’s the most insane thing that a group has ever come together to do.” If he can pull that off – and everything we’ve seen and heard about First Man suggests he will – we are in for a hell of a treat in cinemas this October.

First Man (2018), directed by Damien Chazelle, will be released in the UK on the 12th October.

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I play/watch/listen to things, then write about playing/watching/listening to things. Special powers include downing two litres of tea at a time and binging a 13-episode Netflix series in only 12 hours. Records Editor 2018/19 OMG

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