Damien Chazelle’s films have been decidedly earthbound, but for his fourth film he’s heading to the stars. First Man stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong as he prepares for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
This is Chazelle’s fourth film after a loose trilogy of movies about jazz. His debut film, 2009’s musical romance Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, was given a limited release, so most people didn’t take notice of Chazelle until 2013’s Whiplash. Whiplash was in a way a twisted bromance between two sociopathic jazz men, an up and coming drummer played by Miles Teller and his teacher, played by J.K. Simmons. Simmons won an Oscar for his terrifying performance. 2016’s La La Land, Chazelle’s third film and another jazz musical, was a massive smash that won six Academy Awards including the Best Director prize.
So, with all that said, it’s a pleasant surprise to see Chazelle move onto such a big topic as the moon landing. The trailer is exciting and has a vibe like a horror movie. Death lurks around the corner as reporters ask Armstrong questions about “IF this mission is a success…” It’s clear that Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer intend to focus on how dangerous and insane the mission to the moon was. Remember, you have more computing power in your phone than NASA had to get Apollo 11 to space.
Incidentally, Neil Armstrong formed a jazz band in high school, so maybe Chazelle can find a spot for a flashback musical interlude. First Man opens October 12th and stars Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, and Kyle Chandler.