Having been amazed by Damien Chazelle's previous two films, Whiplash and La La Land, there was an unavoidable sense of high expectation from me towards his latest film, First Man. One of mankind's greatest achievements gets the silver screen treatment and, with Chazelle at the helm, there was every chance it'd be out of this world.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) became the first man to walk on the Moon. It's an iconic moment in history and Chazelle's film takes a look at both the life of Armstrong and the work that went into the dangerous mission, a number of years before it even happened.
Damien Chazelle certainly has a sense of grandeur that can be found in all of his films, Whiplash having it in the phenomenal sequences of music and La La Land having it in spades serving as an ode to the golden age of Hollywood musicals. When it comes to First Man, he achieves this with some quite stunning moments that places the central character, as well as the audience, amongst the stars. The space sequences are utterly breathtaking, Linus Sandgren's spacious cinematography and Tom Cross' editing capturing the wonder of such an achievement for mankind, the Moon landing sequence in IMAX up there as one of my favourites of the year.

It's not just the visuals that work wonders in First Man either, the use of sound prominent once again in a Chazelle film. The sound department often go under the radar in a film's success however, Chazelle utilises them so well again in First Man that it's too hard to ignore the great work they carry out. Then there is the score from Justin Hurwitz, tense when needed but also balletic when travelling through space.

Josh Singer's screenplay does more than just tell the story of the Moon landing, it tells the story of a man driven by personal tragedy to succeed in his field and make this American dream become a reality. Singer's screenplay doesn't require a performance full of charisma and with Ryan Gosling as the lead, Chazelle's film is driven by a perfectly understated performance. Then there is Claire Foy as Armstrong's wife, Janet. Foy has made quite a name for herself as the Queen in The Crown and she doesn't do her growing reputation any harm here with a steely performance in First Man.

It's a film that ultimately blew me away in the IMAX format and I'm sure I'll be as transfixed on repeat viewings. Damien Chazelle has earned a place as one of my favourite directors of all time in just three films and with First Man, it just further proves he has the filmmaking world at his feet.

Verdict: ★★★★★


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