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Why Damien Chazelle’s “First Man” is Criminally Underrated

First Man chronicles the events leading up to the Apollo 11 mission, the first successful expedition to the moon. It follows in-depth the journey of Neil Armstrong, from his time as a NASA test pilot to his involvement with the moon missions. The film walks through the early stages of NASA’s moon-mission development, the Gemini 8 mission, the disastrous Apollo 1 event, and ends with Apollo 11. Along the way, tensions with the Soviet Union are explored side along with rising expectations from the public. Overall, First Man is a biographical film that explores one man’s involvement with one of the most important events in U.S. history. 

    The film boasts an all-star cast and crew. Starting off first with the director Damien Chazelle, whose past projects La La Land and Whiplash are both Oscar-nominated. Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong, and Claire Foy (Netflix’s The Crown) plays Janet Armstrong. The film’s musical score is composed by Justin Hurwitz, who composed soundtracks for both La La Land and Whiplash

Image by Amazon


    Shortly after First Man’s release into cinemas, critics from both filmgoers and politicians were quick to point out that in the film’s depiction of the moon landing, the planting of the American flag was completely omitted. Outraged fans quickly took to online forums to declare that the film was unpatriotic and offensive to American values. Some politicians such as President Trump and Senator Rubio of Florida also expressed their outrage over the flag’s absence via Twitter. The film ultimately ended its cinematic run with only minor Oscar nominations and an industry-disappointing box office. 

The criticism over the film’s direction is very unwarranted. To feel intense dissatisfaction after watching the movie because of the absence of a flag completely misses the movie’s overall direction. It is almost as if one didn’t watch the film in its entirety at all. First Man is not meant to be a historically patriotic film. It was not created to proclaim U.S. patriotism. First Man dives deeper into the events of the moon landing; it explores Neil Armstrong’s inner thoughts and doubts. The movie follows the turmoil of one man explores through a momentous period in his life. First Man is not a prideful film; the movie explores vulnerability, loss, and how to cope with grief. 

I highly recommend everyone to see this film. It truly is a thought-provoking piece of art that deserved much or recognition and remembrance than it did. 

I am a second year student at UVA. I love books, black tea, and bananas.
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