Chazelle does it partly because of how she uses the camera: a lot of First man he gets shots in aggressive and noisy close-ups, filling the frame with people's faces and shudders in and out of focus, even during the rudimentary scenes of dialogue and exposure. The distinctive Kubrickian hallmark of space films filled with majestic broad shots is ignored (at least until the final sequence of the film). From the first minute, Chazelle wants things to feel tenuous and stressful; The Apollo program, after all, was not a safe bet. It was, literally, a wild mole, invoked by President John F. Kennedy as something the country did not do because it was easy, but precisely because it was difficult.
The director also sows tension by trusting his lead actor, Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong as a traveling emblem of the Silent Generation. The film is based on the only authoritative biography of Armstrong (written by James R. Hansen and published in 2005), but there is still something intentionally unknowable about his subject, a war veteran from Ohio and Ohio with a degree in engineering that is became a test pilot. for potThe parent, NACA, in 1955.
Armstrong was, on paper, an American model, happily married to Janet (played with nervy, magnetic intensity by Claire Foy), and with three children. But his daughter, Karen, died two years after he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, a tragedy that is very close. First man and a man becomes more taciturn inward. As Armstrong moves up in rank POT and becomes part of the Apollo program, even his wife struggles to communicate with him. Gosling, who can certainly be a broad actor if he needs to be, is beyond comparison. Armstrong is not so placid as inactive, his emotions are shaking so many miles below the surface that they barely register.
The job of reaching the moon is to consume everything, a relentless battering ram, death and heartbreaking piloting, visited by a group of strong-chinned boys who carry cuts from the crew. The set includes Corey Stoll as the noisy Buzz Aldrin, Kyle Chandler as the POT Chief Deke Slayton and Jason Clarke as pioneer astronaut Ed White, who was as close as Armstrong had a confidant. All are affected by the many mistakes that the Apollo team faced throughout the 1960s, while the US government sweated the repeated triumphs of the Soviet space program.
As Kennedy said, they are doing this because it is difficult, but Chazelle wants the viewer to know exactly how difficult it was. Some scenes, such as the reenactment of the Apollo 1 disaster, are really distressing. Others, like the dramatization of Armstrong's first space mission on Gemini 8, are almost unbearable to watch, thanks to Chazelle's commitment to portray every detail (Gemini 8 involved a lot of very fast turns). A launch sequence is fired completely inside the cockpit while Armstrong and another astronaut sit moored inside a noisy metal coffin. A part of me desperately wanted Chazelle to go out on the rocket and give some relief to the extreme claustrophobia, but the camera always stayed with Armstrong.