First Man (film)

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First Man
First Man (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Produced by
Screenplay by Josh Singer
Based on First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong
by James R. Hansen
Music by Justin Hurwitz
Cinematography Linus Sandgren
Edited by Tom Cross
Distributed by Universal Pictures[1]
Release date
  • August 29, 2018 (2018-08-29) (Venice)
  • October 12, 2018 (2018-10-12) (United States)
Running time
141 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $59–70 million[3][4]
Box office $55.5 million[3]

First Man is a 2018 American biographical drama film directed by Damien Chazelle and written by Josh Singer. Based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, the film stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, alongside Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds, Christopher Abbott, Patrick Fugit, and Lukas Haas, and follows the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon in 1969. Steven Spielberg serves as an executive producer.[5]

First Man had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2018, and was theatrically released in the United States on October 12, 2018, by Universal Pictures. The film was critically praised, especially for Gosling and Foy's performances, Chazelle's direction and the Moon landing sequence, and has grossed $55 million worldwide.


In 1961, NASA test pilot Neil Armstrong is flying the X-15 rocket plane when it inadvertently bounces off the atmosphere. Although he manages to land the plane in the Mojave Desert, his colleagues express concern that his recent record of mishaps is due to distraction and he is grounded. His young daughter, Karen, is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor. Desperate to save her, Armstrong keeps a detailed log of her symptoms and feverishly tries to find possible treatments, but she dies soon afterwards. Armstrong applies for Project Gemini and is accepted to NASA Astronaut Group 2. Armstrong, his wife Janet, and their son Rick move to Houston alongside other astronaut families. Armstrong befriends Elliot See, another civilian test pilot, and Ed White. As Armstrong begins training, Deke Slayton impresses upon the new astronauts the importance of the Gemini program, as the Soviet Union had reached every milestone in the Space Race ahead of the United States. Armstrong and Janet have a second son, Mark.

By 1965, the family has settled in Houston, and Armstrong awaits selection for a crew. After the Soviets complete the first extravehicular activity (EVA), Armstrong is informed that he will be the commander of Gemini 8, with David Scott as the pilot. Prior to the mission, See and Charles Bassett are killed in a T-38 crash. Armstrong and Scott successfully launch on Gemini 8, and dock with the Agena target vehicle, but soon afterward, the spacecraft begins to spin at a rapid rate. After nearly blacking out, Armstrong activates the RCS thrusters and safely aborts the mission. Armstrong initially faces criticism, but NASA determines the crew is not at fault. Later, White reveals that he has been selected for the Apollo 1 mission along with Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee.

During a plugs-out test on January 27, 1967, a fire kills the Apollo 1 crew, and Armstrong hears the news while representing NASA at the White House. The next year, after nearly being killed ejecting from the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, Armstrong is selected to command Apollo 11, and Slayton informs him that it will likely be the first lunar landing. Just prior to the launch, Janet confronts Armstrong about the possibility that he won't survive the flight, and insists that he explain the risks of the mission to their young sons. After telling them about the risks he faces, Armstrong says goodbye to his family and departs.

Apollo 11 successfully launches, and arrives at the Moon on the fourth day out. Armstrong and Aldrin undock in the Lunar Module and begin the landing attempt, but as they descend towards their landing site, Aldrin realizes the area is full of large boulders, forcing Armstrong to take manual control of the spacecraft. The lunar module successfully lands with minimal fuel remaining. After setting foot on the Moon, Armstrong drops Karen's bracelet into Little West crater. With their mission complete, the astronauts return home and are placed in quarantine, where Armstrong and Janet share a quiet moment of reflection.



In early 2003, actor-director Clint Eastwood and production people at the studio Warner Bros. bought the film rights to James R. Hansen's First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong. Eastwood had previously directed as well as starred in the 2000 space-themed picture Space Cowboys, though he stated that he would likely not appear on camera in First Man.[11]

Universal and DreamWorks ultimately took up the First Man project in the mid-2010s.[12] Damien Chazelle, who had received critical acclaim for his work on 2014's Whiplash, signed onto the film's production that year, and hired Josh Singer to rewrite an existing script.[13] Gosling, who starred in Chazelle's 2016 film La La Land, joined as well to portray Armstrong in November 2015, and Hansen was hired to co-produce the film because of his role as the book's author.[14][15] Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen also produced the film through Temple Hill Entertainment, with pre-production starting in March 2017.[16][13] Principal photography began in Atlanta in November 2017. To recreate Armstrong's home, the production crew built a replica of it in an empty lot, while the Moon landing sequence was shot in a local rock quarry at night. Chazelle and cinematographer Linus Sandgren chose to shoot this sequence on IMAX 70mm film as opposed to the 16mm and 35mm film the rest of the film was shot on.[17][13]


The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2018.[18][19][20] It screened at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2018,[21][22] and at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2018.[23] It was theatrically released in the United States on October 12, 2018, by Universal Pictures.[24]


First Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Justin Hurwitz
Released October 12, 2018 (2018-10-12)
Genre Film score
Length 67:57:00
Label Back Lot Music
Justin Hurwitz chronology
La La Land
First Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

The musical score for First Man was composed by Justin Hurwitz.

The digital album was released through Back Lot Music on October 12, 2018.

1."X-15"Justin Hurwitz1:22
2."Good Engineer"Justin Hurwitz1:06
3."Karen"Justin Hurwitz0:45
4."Armstrong Cabin"Justin Hurwitz1:15
5."Another Egghead"Justin Hurwitz1:05
6."It'll Be an Adventure"Justin Hurwitz0:41
7."Houston"Justin Hurwitz2:16
8."Multi-Axis Trainer"Justin Hurwitz2:54
9."Baby Mark"Justin Hurwitz0:47
10."Lunar Rhapsody" (featuring Les Baxter)Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman3:04
11."First to Dock"Justin Hurwitz1:27
12."Elliot"Justin Hurwitz0:28
13."Sextant"Justin Hurwitz1:45
14."Squawk Box"Justin Hurwitz1:54
15."Searching For the Aegena"Justin Hurwitz1:51
16."Docking Waltz"Justin Hurwitz3:22
17."Spin"Justin Hurwitz1:15
18."Naha Rescue 1"Justin Hurwitz1:05
19."Pat and Janet"Justin Hurwitz1:34
20."The Armstrongs"Justin Hurwitz2:25
21."I Oughta Be Getting Home / Plugs Out"Justin Hurwitz1:10
22."News Report"Justin Hurwitz0:42
23."Dad's Fine"Justin Hurwitz1:03
24."Whitey on the Moon"Leon Bridges1:48
25."Neil Packs"Justin Hurwitz1:25
26."Contingency Statement"Justin Hurwitz1:56
27."Apollo 11 Launch"Justin Hurwitz5:50
28."Translunar"Justin Hurwitz1:01
29."Moon"Justin Hurwitz1:07
30."Tunnel"Justin Hurwitz0:52
31."The Landing"Justin Hurwitz5:31
32."Moon Walk"Justin Hurwitz1:29
33."Home"Justin Hurwitz1:51
34."Crater"Justin Hurwitz2:00
35."Quarantine"Justin Hurwitz2:15
36."End Credits"Justin Hurwitz4:19
37."Sep Ballet (Bonus Track)"Justin Hurwitz1:17
Total length:67:57


Box office[edit]

As of October 21, 2018, First Man has grossed $30 million in the United States and Canada, and $25.5 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $55.5 million.[3]

In the United States and Canada, First Man was released alongside Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween and Bad Times at the El Royale, and was projected to gross $18–25 million from 3,640 theaters in its opening weekend.[25][4] The film made $5.8 million on its first day, including $1.1 million from Thursday night previews at 2,850 theaters. It went on to debut to $16 million, finishing third at the box office behind holdovers Venom and A Star Is Born.[2] Anthony D'Alessandro of Deadline Hollywood stated that the under-performance was less a matter of any controversy involving the American flag and more to do with the 141 minute runtime and the film's focus on drama,[2] although Forbes speculated the backlash played a factor.[26] Michael Cieply, also of Deadline, also acknowledged that the flag controversy drew Internet criticism and that it could have hurt the film's performance at the box office.[27] The film fell 47% in its second weekend, grossing $8.6 million and finishing fifth.[28]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 318 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "First Man uses a personal focus to fuel a look back at a pivotal moment in human history - and takes audiences on a soaring dramatic journey along the way."[29] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 84 out of 100, based on 56 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[30] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it a 79% positive score.[2]

Owen Gleiberman of Variety called the film "so revelatory in its realism, so gritty in its physicality, that it becomes a drama of thrillingly hellbent danger and obsession."[31] Writing for IndieWire, Michael Nordine awarded the film a B+, describing it as "A powerful experience that will inspire renewed awe of what Armstrong and his ilk did." Nordine praised the opening flight sequence, Gosling's performance and Chazelle's direction.[32] Diana Dabrowska from Cinema Scope wrote, "Armstrong's trip becomes a means for emotional emancipation, a backdrop for an intimate, universal story about dealing with trauma."[33] Peter Howell of the Toronto Star praised the Moon landing sequence, writing: "When the Eagle finally lands on the moon in First Man, the picture truly soars."[34] Nicholas Barber of the BBC gave it a five-star rating, stating that "Gosling and Foy's performances in First Man are probably too unshowy to win awards. But they should, because they could hardly have been bettered. The same goes for the whole of this extraordinary film."[35]

A. O. Scott, of The New York Times, wrote that the film “gets almost everything right, but it’s also strangely underwhelming. It reminds you of an extraordinary feat and acquaints you with an interesting, enigmatic man. But there is a further leap beyond technical accomplishment — into meaning, history, metaphysics or the wilder zones of the imagination — that the film is too careful, too earthbound, to attempt.”[36] Anthony Lane of The New Yorker said the film "captures the grandeur and otherness of the Apollo saga, but not the Midwestern modesty of its hero, Neil Armstrong," writing: "Skillful and compelling this film may be, but, if Neil Armstrong had been the sort of fellow who was likely to cry on the moon, he wouldn’t have been the first man chosen to go there. He would have been the last."[37]

Richard Brody of The New Yorker called the film a "right-wing fetish object" and “a film of deluded, cultish longing for an earlier era of American life, one defined not by conservative politics but, rather, by a narrow and regressive emotional perspective that shapes and distorts the substance of the film.” [38] Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair criticized Gosling's performance as "yet another man of few words, his hooded eyes and pursed lips again meant to signal depth but instead seeming a bit empty. Though Gosling lets some of his sly wit shine through in moments, there's a lot of passive, affectless mien going on in First Man."[39] Stephanie Zacharek of Time said the film as a whole did not live up to Gosling's performance, writing: "This is a respectful movie, even a genuflecting one; there's never a moment when Chazelle fails to let you know he's doing important, valuable work. But that's the problem: The movie feels too fussed-over for such a low-key hero. Its star, Ryan Gosling, turns in a discreet, sensitive performance, almost too sensitive for the movie around it..."[40]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Film releases". Variety Insight. Variety Media. Archived from the original on September 29, 2018. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
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See also[edit]

External links[edit]