First Man is a 2018 American biographical drama film directed by Damien Chazelle and written by Josh Singer, based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen. The film stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, alongside Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds, Christopher Abbott, Patrick Fugit, and Lukas Haas, and follows the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon in 1969. Steven Spielberg serves as an executive producer.
First Man had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2018,and is scheduled to be released in the United States on October 12, 2018, by Universal Pictures. The film received positive reviews.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 114 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. The site’s critical consensus reads, “First Man uses a personal focus to fuel a look back at a pivotal moment in human history – and takes audiences on a soaring dramatic journey along the way.”
On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 84 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”.
Owen Gleiberman of Variety called the film “so revelatory in its realism, so gritty in its physicality, that it becomes a drama of thrillingly hellbent danger and obsession.”
Writing for IndieWire, Michael Nordine awarded the film a B+, describing as “A powerful experience that will inspire renewed awe of what Armstrong and his ilk did.” Nordine praised the opening flight sequence, Gosling’s performance and Chazelle’s direction.
Diana Dabrowska from Cinema Scope wrote, “Armstrong’s trip becomes a means for emotional emancipation, a backdrop for an intimate, universal story about dealing with trauma.”
Nicholas Barber of the BBC gave it a five-star rating, stating that “Gosling and Foy’s performances in First Man are probably too unshowy to win awards. But they should, because they could hardly have been bettered. The same goes for the whole of this extraordinary film.”
American flag controversy
On August 31, 2018, it was reported that the film would not include a scene of Armstrong and Aldrin planting the American flag on the Moon. Florida Senator Marco Rubio described the omission as “total lunacy”.
Chazelle responded with a statement, saying: “I show the American flag standing on the lunar surface, but the flag being physically planted into the surface is one of several moments […] that I chose not to focus upon. To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no. My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the Moon.”The Armstrong family also released a statement, saying: “We do not feel this movie is anti-American in the slightest. Quite the opposite. But don’t take our word for it. We’d encourage everyone to go see this remarkable film and see for themselves.”
Producer Wyck Godfrey told Deadline Hollywood the scene was not included because Chazelle “wanted to be truly emotionally back with the character [Armstrong] and process the emotional journey.”
Buzz Aldrin, who landed on the Moon with Armstrong on Apollo 11, responded to the controversy with a tweet containing the hashtags “#proudtobeanAmerican #freedom #honor #onenation #Apollo11 #July1969 #roadtoApollo50” and two photos of him and Armstrong planting the flag on the Moon.
United States President Donald Trump commented on the film, “It’s unfortunate. It’s almost like they’re embarrassed at the achievement coming from America, I think it’s a terrible thing. When you think of Neil Armstrong and when you think of the landing on the moon, you think about the American flag. For that reason, I wouldn’t even want to watch the movie.”