First Man First Reviews: Great Movies Don't Need to Take Giant Leaps

The first critics to weigh in on Damien Chazelle's space drama say it's thoughtful, well-acted, and beautifully filmed, even if it's not a game-changer.

by | August 29, 2018 | Comments

The Neil Armstrong biopic First Man has kicked off the 2018 Venice Film Festival with a bit of a bang. Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to his big Oscar-winning musical La La Land reportedly does not disappoint, though it also doesn’t sound like the kind of major awards contender that his previous feature was. Based on the first reviews to come in, praise for First Man so far is positive, if a bit safe, landing the film somewhere between merely fine character study and next-level space exploration drama. It’s currently Fresh at 88%, based on 25 reviews.

Though we’re still far from any sort of critical consensus, you can check out what the very first round of critics are saying:

Does First Man stand out among other space dramas?

First Man stands out, in both content and form, as a remarkable, jaw-dropping departure from anything Chazelle has previously made… Nobody has taken us to space this way before.
Leonardo Goi, The Film Stage

An immersive, immaculately crafted, often spectacular and satisfyingly old-fashioned epic that may well become the definitive moon-landing movie.
Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

Less a slinky millennial take on The Right Stuff than John Cassavetes goes to outer space.
Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

First Man is so immersive in its glitchy, hurtling, melting-metal authenticity that it makes a space drama like Apollo 13 look like a puppet show… [It] bears the same relation to the space dramas that have come before it that Saving Private Ryan did to previous war films. The movie redefines what space travel is — the way it lives inside our imaginations — by capturing, for the first time, what the stakes really were.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

When Armstrong climbs into Gemini 8 and it blasts off into the heavens, we’ve never felt this claustrophobia or listened to the creaking of the metal or felt the thrust of the rockets quite this way before in a movie.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

Universal Pictures
(Photo by Universal Pictures)

How is Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Neil Armstrong?

– Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International

Gosling manages it superbly…it is Gosling’s great achievement that he can convey so much while speaking so relatively little.
– David Lister, The Independent

Gosling gives a performance of muscular intelligence and decency.
– Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

Ryan Gosling, turns in a discreet, sensitive performance, almost too sensitive for the movie around it.
Stephanie Zacharek, Time

Gosling’s role in First Man might not attract the same kind of attention from the Oscars that his turn in Chazelle’s previous film did, but it would be unfair to dismiss the La La Land actor here entirely.
David Opie, Digital Spy

Are there any other standout performances?

The large, predominantly male ensemble generally works more as a cohesive unit than as individual characters.
David Rooney, Holllywood Reporter

Jason Clarke impresses, as always.
– Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International

Although there’s one scene in particular starring Gosling early on that may grab the Academy’s attention, it’s still tempting to argue that Foy outshines him here.
– David Opie, Digital Spy

Universal Pictures
(Photo by Universal Pictures)

What else does the movie have going for it?

The absolute knockout performance, in fact, comes from DP Linus Sandgren, shooting in deliciously grainy 16mm and 35mm and, when we finally get to the moon, cracking open the widescreen glory of 70mm IMAX.
– Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

Like the best historical dramas, the film creates suspense over events whose outcome we already know.
– Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

It’s the script’s seamless grounding in the personal that hooks you.
– David Rooney, Holllywood Reporter

Any problems?

The movie feels too fussed-over for such a low-key hero.
Stephanie Zacharek, Time

If there is a less impressive aspect, it’s the story, which suffers from having an outcome we all know and a rather cursory approach to the supporting character.
Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

How should we see First Man?

See First Man on the biggest cinema screen you can find.
– Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

First Man opens in limited release on Friday, October 12. Read all the reviews for it here.


First Man (2018)

Adjusted Score: 105.296%
Critics Consensus: 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.
Synopsis: On the heels of their six-time Academy Award (R)-winning smash, La La Land, Oscar (R)-winning director Damien Chazelle and star... [More]
Directed By: Damien Chazelle

Tag Cloud

movie unscripted talk show Sundance TV cartoon hist Chernobyl Cosplay Family facebook Country DC Comics cancelled romantic comedy strong female leads AMC Mindy Kaling FXX critics Comic Book best BAFTA Film Festival sequel spanish language singing competition Thanksgiving VICE documentary Holiday discovery scary movies space A24 HBO Go adaptation jamie lee curtis stand-up comedy Reality Competition die hard National Geographic dark WGN mockumentary versus award winner thriller CBS natural history BBC One politics Oscars game show SundanceTV Acorn TV Apple cinemax game of thrones Set visit 2017 OWN sitcom Sneak Peek crime drama Winners Stephen King Classic Film Netflix Christmas movies Epix Food Network Comics on TV TruTV teaser spider-man Bravo Pet Sematary finale stoner disaster Masterpiece DC streaming service video on demand television 20th Century Fox Warner Bros. book blockbuster DC Universe SDCC zero dark thirty movies cars GIFs parents video twilight Writers Guild of America Hulu Calendar History satire Disney DirecTV Star Wars Hear Us Out Heroines Sci-Fi sports Biopics Quiz YouTube Premium canceled TV shows films Nickelodeon Tomatazos Election Vudu Sony Pictures spain Best and Worst Winter TV reboot Apple TV+ YouTube Red Women's History Month Toys Disney Plus Musical CBS All Access Super Bowl Cannes Walt Disney Pictures Animation MSNBC 4/20 Showtime breaking bad Lifetime dceu TCA Winter 2020 anime Interview comic 45 cancelled television chucky 2015 Esquire Extras Pirates Schedule political drama E3 streaming Fox News Comedy BBC America Comedy Central psycho screen actors guild Lifetime Christmas movies series Adult Swim Marvel docudrama A&E spinoff festivals CNN Elton John Anna Paquin boxoffice TIFF Black Mirror Syfy canceled Premiere Dates Disney streaming service toy story child's play Watching Series See It Skip It BET Awards sag awards Mary poppins FX OneApp Sundance Mystery children's TV MCU Reality Awards Television Academy Film Discovery Channel spy thriller free movies Mary Tyler Moore criterion Trivia TCA 2017 Ellie Kemper Year in Review Opinion Holidays Universal X-Men cults El Rey Nominations harry potter Infographic indie The Walking Dead PlayStation Fall TV IFC Films Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Polls and Games rotten movies we love asian-american Netflix Black History Month 21st Century Fox Amazon Studios Pixar DGA romance Disney Channel Paramount crossover green book police drama universal monsters Summer NBC Freeform dc Marathons TLC USA latino Apple TV Plus Funimation E! Rock Disney+ Disney Plus Spring TV Pop TV USA Network 71st Emmy Awards Hallmark based on movie Tumblr christmas movies hispanic franchise Teen Character Guide aliens Logo ghosts Cartoon Network Podcast SXSW Drama war screenings 2016 reviews ratings news halloween crime concert Ovation science fiction Countdown TV renewals casting President ITV all-time Marvel Studios FX on Hulu Superheroes ABC Columbia Pictures Crackle TCA First Reviews travel PaleyFest cancelled TV shows San Diego Comic-Con IFC RT21 TNT TBS Brie Larson RT History Creative Arts Emmys historical drama witnail what to watch justice league 007 Turner Classic Movies Emmy Nominations Turner quibi Awards Tour Christmas Shondaland First Look Rocketman Shudder serial killer binge robots Pop LGBTQ GLAAD transformers Rom-Com Kids & Family psychological thriller Certified Fresh Tubi Sundance Now supernatural FOX Chilling Adventures of Sabrina werewolf batman TCM south america name the review Red Carpet elevated horror ESPN independent Nat Geo medical drama Emmys foreign cooking PBS Paramount Network Dark Horse Comics Martial Arts CMT technology Endgame Travel Channel adventure YA golden globes joker Valentine's Day mutant TV Land true crime LGBT dramedy Marvel Television miniseries documentaries The Purge Binge Guide APB tv talk New York Comic Con Ghostbusters Box Office HBO MTV The Arrangement anthology renewed TV shows diversity Song of Ice and Fire Trailer mission: impossible social media revenge nature Rocky Britbox The CW dogs Superheroe doctor who Spectrum Originals blaxploitation Music indiana jones Video Games WarnerMedia The Witch cops Amazon Starz NYCC Lucasfilm animated Star Trek vampires VOD 2020 Western zombies Lionsgate 2019 American Society of Cinematographers comedies Baby Yoda cancelled TV series richard e. Grant theme song Musicals TV period drama ABC Family Fantasy biography slashers a nightmare on elm street 2018 Spike CW Seed Action comics Avengers GoT 24 frames Academy Awards kids Mary Poppins Returns Photos VH1 Mudbound crime thriller Horror comiccon Amazon Prime BET Captain marvel Arrowverse dragons Grammys composers cats directors Tarantino zombie HBO Max Trophy Talk YouTube Peacock Amazon Prime Video Hallmark Christmas movies Pride Month BBC Crunchyroll