First Man (2018)
A review by Shlomoh Sherman
October 17, 2018

Read about First Man On the Internet Movie Data Base

Director: Damien Chazelle
Writers: Josh Singer (screenplay by), James R. Hansen (based on the book by)
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke
Plot: A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Plot Keywords: moon - astronaut - Neil Armstrong character - outer space - NASA
Taglines: Experience the impossible, journey to the Moon
Genres: Biography - Drama - History
Motion Picture Rating: (MPAA)
Rated PG-13 for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language
Parents Guide: See below
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: October 12, 2018 (USA)
Filming Locations: Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 690 Rounsaville Rd, Roswell, Georgia, USA
Box Office:
Budget:$60,000,000 (estimated)
Company Credits:
Production Co: Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, Temple Hill Entertainment, Perfect World Pictures
Runtime: 141 min
Sound Mix: Dolby Atmos
Color: Color Awards and Nominations: See below


FIRST MAN is the story about the legendary American Astronaut Neil Armstrong's 1969 journey as the first human to walk on the moon.

Ryan Gosling does a superb job as Armstrong. According to the film, he was not a person to easily express emotions. After the death of his little daughter, due to a terminal illness,
Armstrong became emotionally withdrawn from his family, devoting the greater part of his life to his job with NASA.

The film depicts the 1960s space race which the Soviets appeared to be winning. The American government felt obliged to do something dramatic to at least catch up to the Russians and they were spurred on by remembering president Kennedy's promise to land a man on the moon by the end of the 60s decade.

While the hippie culture was changing music, views on sex and drugs, and society in general, and while America was also in the midst of a racial revolution, NASA was preparing to open a new world of exploration.

The movie shows us that not everyone in America was happy or excited by the moon project.

The sound of Gil Scott-Heron's song, Whitey's On The Moon plays in the background over scenes of people protesting the government's financing the space project and pursuing a hopeless war in Vietnam rather than using the funds to help the poor and needy.

The film grows in emotional intensity as it shows the liftoff from Houston and the descent of the lunar module, Eagle, on the moon's surface. We who remember the actual flight once again relive the dramatic moment of Armstrong stepping off the Eagle, speaking the immortal words, "One small step for man; One giant leap for mankind."

As dramatic as the moon flight and landing are, the movie also has a second drama, - the story of Neil Armstrong and his family. Armstrong has difficulty being close to his wife and children. On the eve of the flight, he cannot even bring himself to say goodbye to his children, 8 and 10. His wife has to literally force him to speak to the children before he leaves, telling him that the children are aware that he may not return from the flight if even one of the many miscalculations that can occur, happens. The older child confronts him, asking him if it is possible that he won't safely return. When he says, yes, it's possible, the boy merely shakes his hand rather than hug him. Upon his return from the moon, Armstrong is put into quarantine. When his wife comes to visit him, they are separated by a glass wall. Rather than running up to the glass to kiss, they seat themselves and watch each other till Armstrong weakly blows a kiss to her.

The depiction of Neil Armstrong as a man who had difficulty expressing his emotions and affections to those close to him came as no surprise to me. I remember seeing him on my small black and white TV at Edwards Air Force Base where his parents came to greet him.

As his mother and father walk down the steps of the plane to the tarmac, the announcer speaks, and I remember the words clearly, even after so many years. "Capt Armstrong and his mother embrace warmly. Capt Armstrong and his father practice manly restraint."

Manly restraint. They merely shake hands. Imagine. This astronaut went on a journey that was so dangerous that it was a miracle that he came back alive, and all his father can do is shake his hand. Watching that disgusted me because it was the epitome of something so unJewish. Had Neil been Jewish or Italian or Greek or Puerto Rican or god knows what, the father would have been all over him with hugs and kisses. But that White Anglo-Saxon Protestant GOYISH behavior made me sick. Call me overly sensitive if you wish but that scene was in my mind as I watched Neil's lack of emotional enthusiasm in FIRST MAN.
Okay, I got that off my chest. Continuing ....

Doing some research on the director, Damien Chazelle, I find he is a self-professed "left-leaning" person who expresses vehement antipathy towards president Trump and conservatives generally and their values. It is evident to me that he purposely left out a scene showing the planting of the American flag on the moon so as not to appear overly patriotic to his politically correct liberal buddies, not wanting to be seen as a nationalist. This fits in perfectly with how the new Hollywood is exactly showing America its idea that identity politics is preferable to patriotism and nationalism.

Although it may be true that the moon landing was a human achievement, it more specifically was an American achievement, and as far as I am concerned, to willfully ignore that fact shows a kowtowing to the worst aspects of Hollywood liberalism.

Armstrong is shown throwing his deceased daughter's little bracelet into a moon crater.
Buzz Aldrin tweets photos of Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon amid controversy the 'First Man' movie omitted the scene
Conservative outcry built up over the weekend when it was revealed that there was no scene in the movie showing Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling, planting an American flag on the moon.
The film received backlash over the weekend after it was revealed that there wasn't a scene showing Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling, planting an American flag on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.
Among the critics of the film is Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who called the choice "total lunacy."
Director Damien Chazelle said he did not mean to make a political statement by leaving the flag-planting moment out of the movie and pointed out that other scenes show the flag on the lunar surface.

Oh sure!

Sometime after the successful moon landing and the return of the crew, certain people put forth the theory that the landing was fake, a plot by the American government to fool the world into believing that going to the moon was impossible. FIRST MAN doesn't deal with this issue but the idea that NASA was not able to accomplish the landing and so had to create a false film about it has always struck me as crazy. But, not surprisingly, this fits into the ideas that some have that the government is essentially evil and always plotting against its citizens.

The magazine, Popular Mechanics, had this to say about faking a moon landing:

Why Faking the Moon Landing Was Impossible
This new video from TruTV's Adam Ruins Everything is a quick distillation of the case against the hoax theory. It would've been harder to fake the landing on Earth than it would have been to actually go to the moon. In fact, in 1969 it would have been impossible.

And this is an excerpt from a July, 2018 edition of the Washington Post:

Why do people believe the moon landing hoax or other conspiracy theories? While people's attraction to conspiracy theories might seem illogical, it stems from a very logical desire to make sense of the world. Assigning meaning to what happens has helped humans to thrive as a species, and conspiracy theories are internally cohesive stories that “help us to understand the unknown whenever things happen that are fearful or unexpected,” said Jan-Willem van Prooijen, a social psychologist at Vrije University in Amsterdam. For some believers, the sense of comfort and clarity such stories bring can override the question of their truth value. Conspiracy theorists often have a high degree of tolerance for contradiction that allows them to ignore evidence against their theories. Conspiracy theories also supply a seductive ego boost. Believers often consider themselves part of a select in-group that — unlike the deluded masses — has figured out what's really going on. While conspiracy theories have been around for millennia, they are thriving in a political moment that rewards those who reject established knowledge. “Conspiracy theories are becoming part of our national dialogue,” said University of Miami political scientist and conspiracy theory researcher Joseph Uscinski. Showing concern for a conspiracy theory's victims, the study suggests, isn't a good debunking strategy — especially when the theory is racist, discriminatory or otherwise harmful. Aldrin once punched someone who accused him of faking the moon landing.

MoJoe's review
Let’s put the debate about whether the Moon landing was real or not aside for a minute and discuss the new movie First Man

The following is an introduction to a review on Geek.Com/Movies. It's not as favorable as others but I thought it an interesting and honest review:

"If you know both your NASA lore and your recently-popular Millennial actor/director bromance-duos you know that’s damn near an ideal pairing: Gosling powering through tasks of intense difficulty and concentration wearing Resting Terminator Face really does seem to be Chazelle’s favorite thing in the world to put on film, and Neil Armstrong of course was infamous for having done the COOLEST THING A HUMAN BEING HAD EVER DONE… EVER and yet never once before or after betraying that he thought it (or anything else, really) was all that big of a deal. So this is very much “Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela” levels of appropriate casting."

Read the review at

My opinion is that for all its faults, FIRST MAN is a movie that all proud Americans should see. It brings back a moment in our turbulent history when the streets of our nation witnessed a summer of violence while real American heroes risked their lives in the quiet peace of space so that we might expand our horizons. It was one small step for a man and a giant leap forward for America!

As usual, I end my reviews citing an excerpt from an IMDB reviewer. Here is one from MrDHWong's review of October 11, 2018:
A beautifully told and respectable portrait of astronaut Neil Armstrong's life and the significance of his contribution to human history. Despite the deep personal losses he has endured throughout his training and in his home life, Armstrong agrees to the mission, knowing full well that he may not come back alive. Superbly directed and acted, the film is less a story about the space race itself and more about the struggles and perseverance of Armstrong. Ryan Gosling gives what could very well be the performance of his career. His nuanced depiction of Neil Armstrong shows the audience how much the astronaut has to lose if he does not survive such a monumental journey. Claire Foy is also worth noting as Armstrong's wife Janet. Her concern and worry for her husband's safe return from the moon were brilliantly represented during the film's more emotional scenes. Director Damien Chazelle demonstrates his talent for creative cinematography, showing the vastness of space and how small and insignificant Earth is in comparison. Films like this truly emphasize how much mankind has accomplished in the short amount of time we have existed and further highlight how much more is needed to be done.
I rate it a solid 9/10

KUDOS TO Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong; this British actress portrayed the current Queen Elizabeth in the Netflix series, THE CROWN; also seen in the PBS TV Series, UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS
KUDOS TO Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong; this Canadian actor has long been one of my favorites; seen in Blade Runner 2049, La La Land, The Big Short, Lars And The Real Girl, The Notebook, among others; my early introduction to Gosling, giving me a negative view of him, was his role as a young Jewish man drawn to living as a neo-nazi in film, The Believer
KUDOS TO Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin; Corey is another favorite of mine; among his movies are (TV Series)The Strain, (TV Series)House of Cards, (TV Series) Homeland, Ant-Man, The Good Lie, Midnight in Paris, and Lucky Number Slevin

Some of the voices heard in the film are actual recordings from the space program. For example, when Apollo 11 lands on the moon, the reply from Houston is the original. It's the voice of astronaut Charlie Duke, who had the job of communicating with Apollo 11 during the landing. Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) says "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle Has Landed", then Charlie Duke says "Roger, Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You've got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot."
Clint Eastwood was originally going to direct the movie.
Damien Chazelle's first choice to play the role of Neil Armstrong was always Ryan Gosling. Gosling was even rumored to be attached to the project during its development stage but nothing was officially confirmed. It wasn't until after Gosling did La La Land (2016) with Chazelle that Gosling would officially sign on to do the project.
This is the first Universal Pictures film to use IMAX cameras.
Original music composed by Justin Hurwitz features various uncommon instruments including theremin (which Hurwitz had learned to play and his performances are in the final score), Moog synthesizer and an Echoplex which give the score its uniqueness. He also rerecorded a string orchestra being played back through a Leslie rotor cabinet to create special sound effects.
Armstrong's famous quote as he stepped on the moon is the subject of historical controversy. The movie quotes accurately what was heard on Earth and in all recordings: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Armstrong later revealed that he intended to say "... one small step for [A] man ..." and that he thought he did, but all efforts to extract this from the recording, even with electronics, have been inconclusive.
Segments from the last voice transmission from the space shuttle Challenger sent just before it exploded during launch in 1986, were used in one of the trailers.
Actor Ryan Gosling first discovered Armstrong's love of the Theremin during his background research with Armstrong's family and friends. He brought it to Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz's attention, who later chose to include the strange instrument in the score.
Damien Chazelle was particularly attached to making his film as authentic as possible. This care of the detail was applied until the reconstitution to the millimeter close to the space capsules. With the chief designer Nathan Crowley, they have agreed that no ship is enlarged by more than 10%, even if it sacrifices the comfort of the actors. This also caused complications for framing. The solution was to create a decor that fits in several detachable parts. In fact, the technicians had to break the seats in two to be able to integrate the cameras with the capsule.
The opening scene shows Armstrong's infamous mishap when flying the X-15 supersonic vehicle, but merges this with a later incident involving Chuck Yeager for economy. Armstrong was flying in a T-33 with Yeager, testing X-15 landing sites when the T-33 became stuck on one lake bed, stranding Armstrong and Yeager in the desert. These early incidents in Armstrong's career became part of the test pilot lore, although Yeager supposedly found the T-33 fiasco hilarious and enjoyed ribbing the younger pilot about it.
-First Man - the first man on the moon is from James R. Hansen's book The First Man: Discovering Neil Armstrong (Robert Laffont Editions). After writing a thesis in the history of science and technology at the University of Ohio, and spending more than 20 years writing and teaching on the themes of history and space, Hansen decided to start writing his first biography. In 2000, he contacted Neil Armstrong who, reluctant to give interviews, declined the proposal. In the end, it took Hansen two years to convince Armstrong, with the support of his family.
Damien Chazelle was approached to stage First Man once Whiplash completed, while he had not yet realized La La Land. The director wanted to approach this story as a thriller and make the public feel the dangers faced by the astronaut team.
Pablo Schreiber plays James Lovell, another pilot of the Gemini program and commander of the replacement mission of Apollo 11. A character that spectators have already met in the movie Apollo 13 as Tom Hanks.
Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler also co-starred in Zero Dark Thirty (2012).
Jason Clarke appears in the film as Ed White. Clarke had previously starred as Sen. Ted Kennedy in Chappaquiddick (2017), which chronicled the Chappaquiddick incident that happened around the same time as the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Jason Clarke -- who plays Apollo astronaut Ed White -- also stars in the movie Chappaquiddick. In Chappaquiddick's opening scene, Ted Kennedy (played by Jason Clarke) is seen talking about JFK's promise to send men to the moon. The scene is followed by shots of a Saturn V/Apollo launch.
When the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival, it faced controversy for not featuring the iconic planting of the American flag on the Moon during the Lunar sequence. Ryan Gosling defended the omission because, "it transcended countries and borders...I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that's how we chose to view it. I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible. I might have cognitive bias, [but] I don't think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero. From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil." The biography upon which which the film is based recounts the astronauts' struggles with the malfunctioning flagpole, which "nearly turned into a public relations disaster",

Neil Armstrong: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
Older Rick Armstrong: Mom, what's wrong?
Janet Armstrong: Nothing, honey. Your dad's going to the Moon.
Janet Armstrong: What are the chances you're not coming back? Those kids, they don't have a father anymore! So you're gonna sit the boys down, and prepare them for the fact that you might never come home!
Deke Slayton: We've got this under control.
Janet Armstrong: You're a bunch of boys making models out of balsa wood! You don't have anything under control!

Crazy Credits"
There are no opening credits.
Near the end of the closing credits, the music is replaced by radio chatter from the mission.

I SEE THE MOON Written by Meredith Willson
HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS (RIGHT DOWN SANTA CLAUSE LANE) Written by Gene Autry, Oakley Haldeman (as Oakley Haideman) Performed by Gene Autry Courtesy of Columbia Records By arrangement with Sony Music Entertainment
SYLVIA ACT III: CORTEGE DE BACCHUS Written by Léo Delibes (as Leo Delibes) Performed by Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra Conducted by Richard Hayman Courtesy of Naxos By arrangement with Source Q
LUNAR RHAPSODY Written by Harry Revel Performed by Samuel Hoffman (as Dr. Samuel J Hoffman) feat. Les Baxter Courtesy of Capitol Records Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
500 MILES Written by Hedy West Performed by Peter Paul & Mary (as Peter, Paul & Mary) Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc. By arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
LEMON TREE Written by Will Holt Performed by The Kingston Trio Courtesy of Capitol Records Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
DON'T THINK TWICE, IT'S ALRIGHT Written by Bob Dylan Performed by Peter Paul & Mary (as Peter, Paul & Mary) Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc. By arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
OKLAHOMA Written by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II Performed by Gordon MacRae, Charlotte Greenwood & Shirley Jones Courtesy of Capitol Records Under license of Universal Music Enterprises
SURE OF LOVE Written by George Goldner,Stuart Wiener Performed by The Chantels Courtesy of Rhino Entertainment Company By arrangement with Warner Music Film & TV Licensing
PLEDGING MY LOVE Written by Don D. Robey, Ferdinand Washington Performed by Johnny Ace Courtesy of Geffen Records Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
WHITEY ON THE MOON Written by Gil Scott-Heron Performed by Leon Bridges Leon Bridges appears courtesy of Columbia Records


Certification: MPAA Rated PG-13 for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language

Australia:M Brazil:12 Canada:PG (British Columbia) Canada:G (Quebec) Germany:12 Hungary:12 India:UA Indonesia:13+ Ireland:12A Malaysia:P13 Netherlands:6 New Zealand:M Norway:12 Portugal:M/12 Singapore:PG13 South Africa:13 (L) South Korea:12 Spain:7 (ICAA) Switzerland:12 Taiwan:GP United Kingdom:12A United States:PG-13 (certificate #51688)

Couple seen kissing but nothing major at all

Shit is used a bit. Damn is used once and one f word that is emphasized and said loudly

A guy asks his friend if he wants a beer

The Parents Guide items below may give away important plot points.

A mild crash results in a guy hurting the side of his face; nothing major
A guy holding a glass realizes he broke it with pressure. We see some blood
Astronauts being burned while calling for help and trying to unbuckle their seat belts.

There are many scenes that are intense. Several crashes with fire. One specific incident may be frightening because the capsule lights on fire and explodes with three astronauts inside


Toronto International Film Festival 2018 Nominee People's Choice Award Gala Presentations Damien Chazelle
Venice Film Festival 2018 Nominee Golden Lion Best Film Damien Chazelle

Read about First Man On the Internet Movie Data Base

Cast overview, first billed only:
Claire Foy ... Janet Armstrong
Ryan Gosling ... Neil Armstrong
Pablo Schreiber ... Jim Lovell
Christopher Abbott ... Dave Scott
Ethan Embry ... Pete Conrad
Ciarán Hinds ... Robert Gilruth
Jason Clarke ... Edward Higgins White
Kyle Chandler ... Deke Slayton
Corey Stoll ... Buzz Aldrin
Shea Whigham ... Gus Grissom
Patrick Fugit ... Elliott See
Lukas Haas ... Mike Collins
Cory Michael Smith ... Roger Chaffee
Brady Smith ... Butch Butchart
Olivia Hamilton ... Pat White

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