Every now and then in Hollywood we get the privilege of watching a brilliant director burst onto the scene real time, a man or woman who comes out of the gate with immense talents born from a lifetime of loving and studying film and absolutely wows us from day one. We’re in a bit of a renaissance in this regard at the moment, as an entire new generation of brilliant film makers seems to be emerging before us. One of those film makers is Damien Chazelle. After rocketing into the spotlight with his second film Whiplash, Chazelle rose to a level of directorial stardom with the release of his third film, the bittersweet Technicolor musical La La Land. Now, with the release of the trailer for his next film First Man, it appears that Chazelle has done it again.
First Man tells the story of the journey to put man on the moon for the first time, through the eyes of the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong. There’s a lot to discuss about this but first you need to watch the trailer.
Ok, so yeah, a lot to unpack here. There’ve been a lot movies made about space travel so the biggest question about this movie was what angel Chazelle was going to take on it and the one that he appears to have chosen is fascinating. Rather than going with the traditional “space travel is super cool” angle that one might expect, Chazelle instead seems intent on telling a story about risk and obsession. One in which space travel, at least in the beginning, is utterly terrifying. “Taught science thriller” may not be the first angle one might think of for a movie about the moon landing, but it’s one that’s definitely workable and Chazelle is undoubtedly the exact kind of director to make a story of that type sing. Also worth noting that Ryan Gosling already looks fantastic in this. Quiet obsession is very much a tool in Gosling’s toolbox and he appears to be ratcheting the intensity up several notches in this. Gosling has been having a bit of a moment of late, taking on role after fascinating role and knocking them out of the park, and this does not appear to be an exception.
The other thing worth noting? This thing looks amazing. The first thing you notice is that Chazelle and his cinematographer Linus Sandgren have done something to their film for this one. The shots have a grainy washed out quality reminiscent of the look of old documentaries or home videos. It’s an odd choice but one that definitely seems to work as it sells the angle that this is a story occurring in another time and place, and based on the past work of the two, likely indicates something regarding their thematic angle on the film.
There’s a ton to love here. Chazelle seems to be attacking what could easily have been a bog standard bio-pic from a unique angle and with a plan that could truly elevate the material. There’s an intensity to it that is already palpable in the trailer, and I for one cannot wait to see this film when it comes out. First Man hits theaters October 12th.