First Man

Rated 3.0

Director Damien Chazelle and writer Josh Singer (adapting James R. Hansen’s biography) follow the career of Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) from his days as a test pilot to his landing on the moon as commander of Apollo 11 in 1969. The movie suffers from Chazelle’s mannered camerawork, always too close to the subject (closeups seldom include chins and foreheads in the same shot); it feels like it was designed to be watched on an iPad rather than in a theater. Gosling’s customary diffidence makes Armstrong seem cold and distant as the moon itself, while his wife Janet, as played by Claire Foy, comes off as a nagging shrew; it makes for an off-putting combination. Ultimately, the movie is proficient but unsatisfying—we leave the theater feeling like we know less about Armstrong than we did going in.