The word unglamorous came to mind as I was leaving the cinema having watched First Man. Most films about space and the moon that come out of Hollywood are big spectacles that hit with a bang or deliver edge of your seat suspense. Normally, science is forgotten, and astronauts are presented as tough, wise cracking he-men. First Man, however, doesn't strive to be a Hollywood fanfare, preferring to go down a more realistic route, delivering a film that may struggle to find an audience in the popcorn selling industry.
First Man brings the story of Neil Armstrong to the screen and chronicles America's journey to the Sea of Tranquillity in the process. It is directed by Damien Chazelle, famous for the brilliant Whiplash, and the slightly over-rated La La Land. Ryan Gosling gives a restrained and unglamorous performance as Neil Armstrong. He is supported by a Claire Foy (best known for The Crown), Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Ciaran Hinds (of Game of Thrones fame, or less known as Steppenwolf in 2017s Justice League) and Corey Stoll (House of Cards) as Buzz Aldrin.
Armstrong is presented as a man of few words, very low key and humble. He hides much of his emotions, refusing to deal outwardly with the tragedies that befall him along the way. In some ways, this is the heart of the problem with the film, as it's hard to get engrossed in a character study of a man who doesn't reveal a lot of character. The film delivers much of what you'd expect, and does so in a very competent way. The film ticks many boxes and brings plenty of good moments. However, for a movie about the first man to walk on the moon, it doesn't quite land on its feet.
That's not to say it's a bad film, or boring at all. However, in addition to Armstrong (and the other astronauts) being presented as tough but emotionally restrained men, the film also delivers much of its more sellable assets, such as the space trips, in a very matter of fact way. Realism is delivered, but 1960s Cold War realism doesn't necessarily inspire a lot of popcorn eating.