Cover Story: First Man

First Man movie Ryan Gosling

As part of the seventh annual New York Veterans Week celebration, Veterans Advantage hosted a free movie screening of “First Man”, sponsored by our partner IMAX.

The big screen edition of this autobiography brings to life the career and moon landing of Naval aviator-turned astronaut Neil Armstrong. It’s a story that has inspired generations, from nostalgic Vietnam Veterans through post-9/11 Veterans. 

Armstrong, like many of the Apollo era, served in the military. He was a Naval test pilot, while his Apollo 11 crewmates Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were both West Point graduates. He was known for his calm yet intense demeanor. The historical handling of the movie was done “very well,” according to, in particular the portrayal of Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling: “This is not a story about the U.S. space program or even one particular mission; this is a story about just one man and his enviable ability to compartmentalize his fear and ‘maintain an even strain,’ even when death may seem to be no more than one minor mistake away.”

To underscore these unique personality traits, the movie depicts Armstrong with a businesslike demeanor, explaining the risks of the Apollo mission to his children before taking off.

"We were excited, but in an amazing way. Our parents, after they talked to us about what was happening, we weren't scared," Armstrong’s son Mark told USA Today. "We didn't have nightmares or anything like that. We were just excited like the rest of the world."

The movie follows Armstrong’s personal journey, from his death-defying experiences as a test pilot, to the personal pain from the death of his daughter and several fellow astronauts.

The movie brings together two Oscar winners and a star from La LA Land: Director Damien Chazelle, the youngest Director to ever win the Oscar, Cinematographer Linus Sandgren and actor Ryan Gosling. Steven Spielberg is the executive producer.

"What I wanted to do with this movie," Chazelle tells technology site CNET, "was to take a contemporary viewer and try to really rewind to the early '60s ... in a real-time immediate way, not with a historical vantage point but hopefully in a present-tense kind of way."

"Neil would never have called himself a hero. He genuinely didn't think of himself that way," said the movie’s writer Josh Singer, who noted that Armstrong shied away from praise and instead thanked the "men and women who worked on the mission. He was the tip of a very long spear."

Singer worked with James R. Hansen, who wrote the book of the same name, and the officially authorized biography of the late Neil Armstrong.

The film is not without controversy, primarily because it did not depict the planting of the U.S. flag on the moon, with star Ryan Gosling defending the decision: “I don't think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero,” according to CNN.

"The filmmakers chose to focus on Neil looking back at the earth, his walk to Little West Crater, his unique, personal experience of completing this journey, a journey that has seen so many incredible highs and devastating lows,” said Armstrong’s sons, Rick and Mark Armstrong.



Photo credit: Universal’s First Man site

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