‘First Man’, which stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and is directed by Oscar darling Damien Chazelle (‘Whiplash’, ‘La La Land’) had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last night, and the first reviews of it are now in.
While initial reviews for it are allowing that it has its flaws, the vast majority of them are in high praise of the film.
The BBC gave the film five out of five stars, praising the film’s minimalist approach, describing it as an “understated, economical drama.” Reviewer Nicholas Barber adds: “And yet, as restrained as First Man is, this riveting, exhaustively researched and utterly believable film manages to shake you, take your breath away and even pull a few tears from your eyes.”
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw gave the film four out of five, calling it “occasionally staid” though he highly commended Gosling’s performance. He concludes that director “Chazelle tells Armstrong’s story with certainty and verve.”
David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter also wrote about Gosling's performance, saying he “pulls you in on an intimate level” and that he “downplays his natural charisma here to portray a man simply intent on doing a job, approaching it with the utmost seriousness and without ego.”
Michael Nordine from Indiewire, meanwhile, was all about Claire Foy, writing “Foy does her utmost to bring something new to that familiar role, though, imbuing it with a tenacity befitting her pedigree.”
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman sees the move as a game changer: “‘First Man’ 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 imagination — by capturing, for the first time, what the stakes really were."
However, there were some negative reviews too. The Playlist described it as “an immaculately crafted, old-fashioned epic”, but found that the story “suffers from having an outcome we all know and a rather cursory approach to the supporting character.”
Time Magazine was more critical still, writing that “First Man Doesn't Quite Live Up to Ryan Gosling's Thoughtful Neil Armstrong Performance,” and that “the movie feels too fussed-over for such a low-key hero.”