As my movie reviewing has evolved over the last decade (or so) I have become much more discerning with what I love. Back when I was a teenager and then into my twenties and thirties I loved every movie and thought they were all magic. But as they keep churning them out movie after movie, almost production-line style, the ones that stand out and that I love immensely have dropped significantly. I only think I have handed out two other perfect 5-Pop movies in 2018 so it is a sign that FIRST MAN is truly special when I give it a top score. FIRST MAN is out today, Thursday 11th October, in Australia from the fine folks at Universal PIctures, it is rated M and runs for 141mins.


First Man Ryan Gosling image
Ryan Gosling




While the outcome is one of the most significant notations in human history the story of how the crew, and their introverted Captain, Neil Armstrong, got to the moon is only really known from books. FIRST MAN is a detailed 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.

For a film based on history in which nearly every single person knows what happened FIRST MAN plays more like a thriller biopic that keeps you on the edge of your seat holding your breath.

Based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen.

And cheeky fact – it shipped to cinemas using the film title SPUTNIK.


FIRST MAN Ryan Gosling, Corey Stoll and Lukas Haas image
Ryan Gosling, Corey Stoll and Lukas Haas



Recent stellar-impressive Director, Damien Chazelle, refuses to slow down leaping from strength to strength. Imagine your last three films you directed on your CV were WHIPLASH, LA LA LAND and now FIRST MAN – basically a studio open cheque book. And so it was for FIRST MAN, a movie that originally had Clint Eastwood directing and looks like a top-of-his-game Spielberg film. Note the Spielberg influence, he was one of the Executive Producers. Chazelle only had Gosling in mind for Armstrong and they sealed the deal while filming LA LA LAND – and I have to say it’s one of the best casting decisions of 2018. 

Chazelle not only brought Gosling but his team of talented LA LA LAND individuals – Justin Hurwitz (score), Linus Sandgren (cinematography), Mary Zophres (costume designer) and Tom Cross (film editor). If it works don’t change it!

The success in FIRST MAN is keeping it tight, factual and concentrating on seeing it all from Armstrong’s point of view. I have only known that he was the first man on the moon, I never knew about his family disasters, his personal life and of all the men he saw die on the way to reach the final destination. It isn’t a fly-boy or space movie, this is a story about charging towards you and your country’s dreams at all costs. So many of Armstrong’s colleagues died doing what he did – he was more than lucky for walking on the moon first, he was lucky because he survived long enough to become that guy.

You’re a bunch of boys making models out of balsa wood! You don’t have anything under control! Janet Armstrong

FIRST MAN portrays the actual space mission a lot different than Apollo 13, the actual moon landing was brilliant but this movie is more about the destination to lift off than the outcome. It is the years preceding the launch that count, it shows three of Armstrong’s near disasters and skips the other three that occured in his life. He is one lucky fly-boy! While FIRST MAN isn’t as nerve wracking from the survival perspective of APOLLO 13 I felt more immersed in this film. Thanks for this go to Chazelle’s exceptional directing and pacing, Linus Sandgren’s spectacular cinematography and the new Atmos theatrette I managed to capture the film in. Oh, and let’s not forget the cast.


FIRST MAN Ryan Gosling, Corey Stoll and Lukas Haas image
Ryan Gosling, Corey Stoll and Lukas Haas



Gosling restrains his performance in FIRST MAN with the skill of a master. His Armstrong is full of nuanced inner turmoil. You can see what drove Armstrong; his backstory and his somewhat introverted oddness has motive and strength and it lights up the screen. He is one determined and blinkered individual bent on one mission alone. Gosling has a definite Oscar nomination coming his way. Whether he can beat Rami Malek or Bradley Cooper remains to be seen but he has a good chance.

Claire Foy plays much more than a wife as Janet Armstrong. I didn’t even recognise her, but her performance is one of strength and stress as the wife of a NASA astronaut. Witnessing her see her friend’s husbands die and have this all encompassing fear of potential loss while trying to raise kids was beautiful to watch. More so was watching it climax when she gives NASA a deserved serve.

The cast is huge and to list them all would take more than you are willing to read but Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler and Corey Stoll all clearly stand out. I would have enjoyed more Patrick Fugit and Lukas Haas. Haas’ Mike Collins was basically ignored through the film. Stoll’s Buzz Aldrin was interesting, I never knew he was such a dick. There are a few instances he is not painted as a very likable guy.


FIRST MAN Ryan Gosling image
Ryan Gosling



I spent most of FIRST MAN alternating between a state of high blood pressure and awe. The tense pacing, disasters and determination added with The Gosling as Neil Armstrong are all that is needed for a perfect film for me. Cinematography, sound and an Atmos theatre were a truly magnificent bonus. I will own and blast the crap out of this on 4K HD Blu Ray when it releases.





 owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the  industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.


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