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Film Review: 'First Man' Story of Ordinary Man Accomplishing Something Extraordinary

by Todd A. Smith

 

(Photo Credit: Universal Pictures)

 

Amazing and Relatable 

 

1/2


Sometimes, people forget that those we consider heroes breathe the same air that we do.


Sure, we often put our heroes on a pedestal, thinking that they do not have the same flaws and issues that everyone else does.


However, that viewpoint has too many flaws to point out in one article.


The Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man” shows how an ordinary man with normal problems did something so extraordinary, despite the challenges of everyday life, that he and he alone will always have the title of first man.


Within the building at NASA, Neil (Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”) has a reputation of taking too many risks.


And although he wants in on the upcoming Gemini project, which will conduct research in hopes of one-day sending man to the moon, his superiors do not think he is up to the job for more reasons than one.


On the outside looking in, it seems that the Armstrong family has everything a family could ask for.


Neil has a loving a devoted wife, Janet Armstrong (Claire Foy).


The couple also has two children.


The couple has a rambunctious, romper room of a son, Ricky and his younger sister, Karen.


Despite the façade, the Armstrongs have more problems than they let known.


Their daughter Karen has a brain tumor and is fighting to stay alive.


Meanwhile, Jan and Neil are fighting to provide for their family despite the obstacles they face at home and in the workplace.


Unfortunately, the Armstrongs are not the only ones dealing with pain, struggle and misfortune in “First Man,” which takes place from 1961-1969.


Every family of an astronaut knows the danger of their job.


On any given day an astronaut can go to work at NASA but never return home to their wife and children.


On any given day, a wife of an astronaut can become a widow and their children can become fatherless.


But every astronaut knows the risks and is willing to take the chance because they believe what they discover in outer space can propel America, and therefore the world, even further than it has already gone.


Furthermore, the space program presents a problem for the entire government.


During former President John F. Kennedy’s commencement speech at Rice University in the early 1960s, the young Commander-in-Chief vowed that America would put someone on the moon sometime during the decade of the 1960s.


However, America’s chief nemesis, the U.S.S.R., has beaten their counterparts from the United States in the space race every time.


The Soviet Union put the first man in outer space and beat the U.S. in other key space developments.


It seems as if reaching the moon first will be the only thing that saves America’s reputation and justifies the space program.


While NASA is still optimistic about its Gemini mission, American taxpayers are fed up with the exorbitant amount of money spent on the space program with very little tangible results or benefits.


In the 1960s, many Americans did not have enough to eat.


In the 1960s, many Americans did not have decent housing.


In the 1960s, many Americans did not have equal rights.


And in the 1960s, many Americans did not have decent jobs.


However, America still put more than a decent amount of money in sending human beings into outer space.


Why?


To many, the space program is still unnecessary. 

 

But some of the necessities and luxuries in life that we enjoy today are because of the advancements made via science and the scientists that pushed us into the New Frontier.


The film “First Man” is amazing not because of Armstrong’s amazing accomplishment.


Furthermore, “First Man” is not amazing because we finally beat the Soviets in the space race because many schoolchildren can tell people the story about Armstrong walking on the moon.


Many Americans can recite the words, “the eagle has landed” and “that’s one bold step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”


Those iconic words and moments are etched in stone forever when it comes to American history and world history.


However, unless a person is an expert on Armstrong’s life, the story that “First Man” tells is that any man or woman can accomplish greatness if they persevere throughout heartache and setbacks.


It does not take an extraordinary human to make the world a better place.


It just takes an ordinary person overcoming obstacles and having the tenacity to achieve the extraordinary.


That reality makes “First Man” extremely relatable for moviegoers.


Gosling handles his business in “First Man” as to be expected.


But it is his relationships with other characters that stand out the most.


Stereotypically, many families in the 1960s still prescribed to the old school notion of man bringing home the bacon while women stayed quiet as they cooked the bacon on a skillet.


However, Jan’s strength and outspokenness stood out because she did not keep quiet whether it was with Neil or his superiors like Deke Slayton (Kyle Chandler).


She constantly lets the men surrounding her know where she is coming from even if they are unaccustomed to a woman with her frankness.


Furthermore, Neil’s relationship with fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stroll, “House of Cards”) is interesting to say the least.


Additionally, Neil’s relationship with co-workers he considers friends like Edward Higgins White (Jason Clarke) remains strained because of the strain that Neil deals with in his family life.


From a filmmaking standpoint, the shaky camera work does a great job of simulating what really goes on inside a spaceship.


Moviegoers will feel fear for the astronauts as they put their lives on the line in the name of science.


Unfortunately, the NASA, space and science jargon will leave non-science nerds scratching their heads as they try to learn the lingo of astronauts.


Nevertheless, “First Man” has enough amazing scenes and dramatic storylines to make up for the fact that some moviegoers will not understand all of the dialogue.


But “First Man” is not about the astronaut lingo but the lingo of real life.


Real life has pain.


Real life has adversity.


And real life has extraordinary opportunities if people do not quit on their mission and dream.


Perseverance is what real heroes are made of and Armstrong is definitely an American hero and treasure.

 


REGAL RATINGS

FOUR CROWNS=EXCELLENT

THREE CROWNS=GOOD

TWO CROWNS=AVERAGE

ONE CROWN=POOR

This article was published on Friday 12 October, 2018.
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