October 2018~ First Man

I love a good space film- from films based on real-life events like ‘The Right Stuff’ and ‘Apollo 13’ to fictional films like ‘Space Cowboys’. I just love them!

Thanks to my dad I’ve always had an interest in space, space travel etc. My dad used to write off to NASA in the 60s and they sent him loads of things- maps, photos, an Apollo 11 kit and more. This was something that I also did during the late 70s onward. I have loads of photos, documents etc on the various space shuttles, the ISS and more recent projects.

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I was also lucky enough to take a week-long course, run by a guy from NASA, called ‘Space Camp’. It was based on the US camp of the same name but designed to work in UK schools. Up until a few years ago I ran lots of camps.

So as you can see my interest in space is extensive!

Early in 2017 I read that a film about Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, would be going into production and I’ve waited patiently ever since!

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I finally got to see it this week and I was blown away!

Unlike Apollo 13, it’s not a film just about the moon landing. It is first and foremost about Neil, his family, and his time as an astronaut. It shows us the struggle that Neil went through after the death of his daughter Karen, how her death affected him and his work, his relationships with his wife Janet, his sons and other astronauts.

The film begins in 1961 with Neil in an X-15, an experimental aircraft attached to the underside of a B-52 wing. Neil takes it through its paces but encounters a problem which he eventually resolves. He manages to land safely.

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The story then shifts to his daughter Karen, her battle and eventual succumbing to a brain tumour.

We have a number of time-jumps- the first show Neil’s selection as a Gemini astronaut, his partnership with astronaut Elliot See (who would die in a plane crash) and eventual command of Gemini 8 where he became the first astronaut to successfully dock two spacecraft, something of vital importance to the future Apollo missions. It also included the first critical in-flight incident in which the two docked craft went into a roll due to a faulty thruster.

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The next time-jump brings us to the events of Apollo 1 and the sad demise of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee- all friends of Neil. This again had an impact on him.

Finally we end up with Neil’s command of Apollo 11. We see Neil testing (and crashing) a lunar lander prototype before skipping forward to a press conference shortly before the mission. Neil’s wife Janet is adamant that he must tell he children that he may not return. A job which he reluctantly undertakes.

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As we know the mission is a success and the crew return to earth. The are some scenes that no one knows for sure happened but Neil’s sons (who are apparently big fans of the film) believe happened due to conversations with their dad prior to his death. I won’t say any more but they are quite emotional.

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Ryan Gosling was absolutely amazing as Neil Armstrong. It has always been known that Neil was a quiet, private man, with near-genius level intellect and a dry sense of humour. Gosling pulled this off perfectly! From the way Ryan portrayed Armstrong, every pain over the loss of his daughter was transferred to the audience and this thread carried through the entire film.

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Claire Foy played Neil’s troubled wife Janet with ease. She was believable and you felt her every worry.

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The recreation of all the official video as well as the tech, suits etc was absolutely astounding and will no doubt help fuel the moon landing conspiracy theories!

There have been so many amazing films this year, but this and ‘A Star Is Born’ both deserve to do well during awards season!

Go see it! It’s out of this world! (sorry, I had to! 🙂 )

Addendum- Trump and his followers have lambasted this movie saying that not showing Neil and Buzz planting the US flag is unpatriotic and people should boycott the film. He and his kind are wrong- if the film were about the US Space Programme then I would agree but it’s not. It’s about one man struggling with the memory of his dead child and friends, overcoming all the emotions that go with that whilst trying to do something courageous and succeeding. No flag needed.

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