First Man (2018)

First Man

Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) is the First Man in line of the first day of training at NASA.

It should be noted from the get go that Neil Armstrong did make it to the moon and became the first human to walk on the surface. It is not a spoiler, since we all know that going in, but as a way of saying how wonderful the film First Man really is. There are many areas of tension throughout that we need to remember it will be okay for Armstrong in the end, even if it seems like the odds are impossible, which they probably were close to.

Director Damien Chazelle (fresh off his Oscar win for La La Land) has made a movie that truly is on par with classics like Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff. With a screenplay by Josh Singer (who won an Oscar for Spotlight) that is based on the book by James R. Hansen, First Man starts off where it should: high above ground. We meet Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) as he is in the mist of being an engineer and pilot. After suffering a blow to his family, we see him and his wife Janet (Claire Foy, the recent Emmy winner of The Crown) as he is chosen (along with many others) to be the pilots to help NASA reach the moon before the Russians.

Others in the cast include Kyle Chandler as Deke Slayton, Jason Clarke as Ed White, Pablo Schreiber as Jim Lovell (the role Tom Hanks played in Apollo 13), Lukas Haas as Mike Collins, and Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin. This is just a handful of a supporting cast who bring an unsung backbone to the film’s success.

As the main role, Ryan Gosling gives a rather subdued, yet powerful performance. This, of course, is because Armstrong was known to be a very humbled, quiet man (unlike Buzz Aldrin, which Corey Stoll plays perfectly). It is also a crucial move for Gosling since the performance by Claire Foy as his wife is much more direct and demanding. It is most clear in scenes such as her yelling at Slayton for turning off her radio, and when she is telling her husband not that he should talk to their sons before the mission, but that he will talk to their sons. Like Gosling, Foy gives Oscar caliber work.

However, the one I feel who deserves the most praise is Chazelle. After Whiplash and La La Land, it is clear as day that this guy is one of the best young talents in film today. I read a user review of the film online saying how the movie was too slow, which is ludicrous. Patience is something any movie goer must have to appreciate film as an art, and the pacing of the film here is pitch perfect (it hardly seemed to drag, even at two hours and twenty-one minutes. Cinematographer Linus Sandgren (also a La La Land Oscar winner) gives us not the light we as an audience would need, but the light the characters would have (in other words, he basically seems to use natural light). This is one of many reasons why First Man makes you feel as much as an astronaut as a film has. In Armstrong’s Gemini mission, there is one sequence that has stayed with me more than anything from the film, particularly one sound effect. This and the rest of the sound effects are as spine chilling as those I witnessed when I saw The Exorcist.

Parents, there is no sexual content at all (aside from some kissing). There is some swears (one, maybe two F bombs), and a lot of thematic material (especially with the result of the one main Apollo mission that ended tragically). Still, I would like to believe Middle Schoolers and up would be totally fine with this film.

I conclude with a plea. Recently, First Man had gotten a lot of negative press because the moon landing did not feature Armstrong planting the American Flag on the moon (I still like the fact that Gosling found it humourous that he is Canadian). There are plenty of shots of American flags in the film, and we do see the flag on the moon as well (though not the actual planting of it). It is up to you if you want to miss this film because of one minor thing that they left out. If you still insist on not seeing it, I would say undoubtably that you are missing one extraordinary film experience.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****

The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist

The eerie glow on the silhouette of The Exorcist

 

“The LORD said to Satan, ‘ Where have you come from?’

Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.'”

– Job 1: 7 (NIV version)

Satan has been depicted countless times in the media that it seems we sometimes might forget how horrible he really is. Whether the demon is or isn’t Satan (the name is supposed to be Pazuzu, who, according to IMDB, is a demon from Assyrian and Babylonian Mythology), the demon does come out as saying he is the devil, and his actions more than make up for it.

This, of course, is just one of many reasons why people consider The Exorcist one of the scariest movies ever made. There have been at least four sequels and countless other films dealing on the subject of exorcism. I have not seen them, but even if I did, I doubt I (or anyone) would think they could even begin to compare to the one that truly started it all.

Based on the book by William Peter Blatty, that was based on (rather loosely) true events, the movie tells the all too well-known story of Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair, who recieved so many death threats after the movie was released she needed body guards for six months). Living with her mother Chris (Ellen Burstyn), she gradually is possessed by an evil spirit. We also see the story of Father Karras (Jason Miller), who is recovering from the loss of his mother, and questioning his faith. There are other characters, including Lt. Kinderman (the infallible Lee J. Cobb), Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), and the horrific voice of the spirit, played perfectly by Mercedes McCambridge.

While all the performances are brilliant (Burstyn, Miller, and Blair would all be nominated for an Oscar), the true star is director William Friedkin. Without him this movie would not be known as it is today. Like all great horror movies, he still gives us just enough hope when we feel it is all gone. He also gives us more than our fair share of images that haunt us long after the movie ends.

The movie did win two Oscars. The first was for Blatty’s screenplay, but it is the second one I want to focus on, Best Sound (the winners were Robert Knudson and Christopher Newman). Much of the dialogue is rather soft, but not so with the sounds one hears; the moving of furniture, a knock at the door, heavy breathing, terrifying growling, needles in the skin, breaking glass, water splashing, scampering across the floor, etc. Never before have I seen a movie when I am clutching on to the volume remote.

Parents, do I really need to say it? Don’t let any child watch this movie. High School and above.

I will say this though: if you have a child (again, who is in High School) who is acting like no movie has ever really scared them, then make your choice as to when they can see The Exorcist. I have never met anyone who was not afraid of this movie, and I am confident I never will.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****