Damien Chazelle’s tense biopic detailing the life of Neil Armstrong and his iconic mission to the Moon arrives on blu-ray this week. Does the Oscar contender stick the landing on its home release? Check out our full review to see what we thought!
Like many movies of the last year, I missed out on First Man when it hit theaters in the Fall despite feeling a great deal of eagerness to check it out. Biopics aren’t normally high on my list of “must-watch” films, but as a history buff I was really excited to see how this one pulled it all together.
Thankfully, with the film’s blu-ray release, I finally got my chance to check it out and now I’m even more sad that I missed it on the big screen. The film chronicles the portion of Neil Armstrong’s life leading up to his historic walk on the surface of the Moon. It begins shortly before he applies, and is accepted, to the astronaut program and his eventual landing. While that may not seem like a lot of ground to cover, there’s a significant amount of time included that details his work at NASA while providing insights to his personal life.
Obviously we know how the story ultimately ends (it’s part of history), but seeing the journey in this film is still impressive. One of the best things the film does is immerse you deeply into the experience, making it feel as though you’re watching it unfold in real time before your eyes. It manages to make the idea of space flight terrifying and unsure. There was literally a point in the film where I asked myself if they were going to make it...Before I remembered I already knew the answer!
That’s how tense First Man is, and just how powerfully it manages to engross you in the story. The acting all around is superb, with Claire Foy being the stand out in my mind. She stole every scene she was in, upstaging everyone and doing it effortlessly. Couple that with a strong script and there were several points throughout the film where my emotions got the better of me.
By the time the credits rolled I almost immediately wanted to watch it again and I kept thinking back to the film and its performances for days until I had the chance to watch it again. I’m happy to say, the film remains just as impactful the second time around as the first. It’s such a well put together film and hits all the right notes. If you saw it in theaters and was worried about it not holding up for multiple viewings, have no fear.
This is a film you don’t want to sleep on. Even if you’re not big on biopics or historical dramas, the film has a lot to offer. From the stunning portrayals, excellent character work, and touching story there’s a lot to love.
Sight and Sound
Between Whiplash and La La Land, Damien Chazelle showed he has a knack for delivering stunning and unique visual style, while staying within 'realistic' settings. First Man is no different and despite adhering to the 60s aesthetic, manages some gorgeous shots scene-after-scene, with a variety on the color pallete you wouldn't quite expect.
All of this is on grand display in the HD transfer to the blu-ray. The image is sharp, allowing for crisp edges on the cast while keeping all the smaller details in focus. The blacks are sufficiently deep without crushing, which makes the colors and characters pop on the screen (especially when we get that sweet, sweet Moon footage).
The sound design, which plays a crucial part in the accuracy of the presentation, has made the transition equally well. The multi-channel surround sound makes it feel as though you're strapped in along with the astronauts and immersed in the sounds of those older space-faring vessels. It adds another dimension to the historical factor without detracting from the dialog priority. All in all, from a technical aspect, the First Man blu-ray does a great job of showcasing the beauty of the film.
The Bonus Features
First Man comes loaded up with a handful of bonus features included on the disc:
Shooting for the Moon – Take an intimate look at the production of FIRST MAN and the collaborative relationship between Director Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling.
Preparing to Launch – It’s difficult to believe that FIRST MAN is the first major feature film to tell the journey of Apollo 11. Hear from Director Damien Chazelle and his cast why now is the time to tell the story of this historic event.
Giant Leap in One Small Step – A heroic character study, FIRST MAN sheds light on all the hard working individuals that got us to the moon and back.
Mission Gone Wrong – Watch as Ryan Gosling reenacts a test piloting sequence gone terribly wrong. Go behind the scenes to see how he trained to nail the landing, performing the majority of his own stunts.
Putting You In the Seat – Through the use of innovative technology, most of FIRST MAN was shot in-camera. Take an in-depth look behind the lens of this epic film.
Recreating the Moon Landing – Filmed in IMAX to show the vastness of the moon, find out all that it took to recreate the most famous moment in NASA history.
Shooting at NASA – Hear from Ryan Gosling and Director Damien Chazelle on how shooting at NASA brought unparalleled authenticity to FIRST MAN.
Astronaut Training – Go behind the scenes of the three day boot camp each of the actors underwent prior to filming FIRST MAN.
Feature Commentary with Director Damien Chazelle, Screenwriter Josh Singer and Editor Tom Cross
All of these offer some nice behind the scenes material, though none of them are terribly long. The longest featurette comes in around seven minutes (Putting You In the Seat), which means there isn't a lot of time to delve as deeply into how this biopic was created as you'd like. Still, they're pretty fun, though I'm not entirely sure you'll come back to them that often. The highlight of this disc is definitely the film.