“First Man” is an excellent biopic able to shed insight and create tension in one of the most well-known stories of American history. Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling reunite after “La La Land” to look at an eight-year stretch in the life of legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong. Yes, the story includes the Apollo 11 mission, but the plot focuses entirely on Armstrong.
This film doesn’t intend to amaze its audience with wide shots in space, like “Gravity” or “The Martian.” Instead, every flight and mission has Armstrong’s perspective. It’s cramped in the spacecraft, and so loud you can barely hear the mission control center. “First Man” will certainly receive Oscar nominations in the technical categories come February. The sound is incredible, and even though everyone knows how the story ends, it’s able to create nervous tension in each mission.
Ryan Gosling, one of the most charismatic actors working today, gives another solid performance in the lead role as Neil Armstrong.
In “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “The Big Short,” he’s the coolest person in any room, and he knows it. An introvert who never expresses himself, not even with his family, Armstrong is the exact opposite. He tries to avoid every uncomfortable confrontation possible. When Armstrong is asked if he will bring any of his wife’s belongings on the Apollo 11 mission, he responds, “If I had the choice, I’d bring more fuel.”
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In playing this role, it seemed like Gosling was trying to challenge himself. He is able to play a charming lead so effortlessly, that he may have wanted to prove he can also be like any normal, blue collar fella.
At just under two and a half hours, the film is quite long and could have benefited from cutting some of the earlier details. Still, Armstrong’s constant attempt at seclusion — to go along with the close camera shots in the space vehicles — all led to a breathtaking climax when Armstrong does land on the Moon. A man who, at times, didn’t want to interact with anyone, finally gets the moment to himself he so badly desired.
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The Old Man & the Gun
“The Old Man & the Gun” is a well-told story powered by an incredible final performance from Robert Redford. Like Gosling, Redford plays a character based off a true person, Forrest Tucker. Unlike Gosling, Redford plays to his strength — a cool, charismatic lead in his final film. Tucker was an American criminal that robbed hundreds of banks and somehow escaped prison 18 times.
The film begins with Tucker still robbing banks in his 70s. We learn early on that he has no great debt, or any specific reason to steal money. He just loves it. Tucker walks up to the bank teller or manager, shows them the gun, and then leaves with as much money as his briefcase can hold. Every person describes him the same way: old, happy and extremely polite.
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It’s easy to understand why Redford wanted this to be his last role. He is one of the most famous actors of his generation and built a career off being a charismatic lead. Audiences can’t help but root for him in this film.
During some of his many crimes, Tucker is putting people through the most traumatic experience of their life. Yet, at the end of the film, the audience was still happy for Tucker when he decides he can’t stop doing what he loves. It’s impossible to get that feeling without an excellent performance from Redford
The film includes stars Danny Glover and Tom Waits, who join Redford to make up one of the coolest group of criminals in years. At a quick 93 minutes, the film is excellently paced.
“The Old Man & the Gun” has a great story about a man accepting who he is and embracing it, and proves it will always be fun to watch a Robert Redford movie.