New York Magazine

Giant Leap

Landing on the moon looks harder than ever in First Man.
First Man

FIRST MAN

DIRECTED BY DAMIEN CHAZELLE.

UNIVERSAL. PG-13.

A STAR IS BORN

DIRECTED BY BRADLEY COOPER.

WARNER BROS. R.

DAMIEN CHAZELLE’S Neil Armstrong film, First Man, opens with rattles, shakes, and jerky close-ups of Armstrong’s eyes as he watches primitive-looking dials with numbers going up when they’re supposed to go down. It’s 1961 over the Mojave Desert, and the test pilot’s plane is misbehaving. But there’s a moment when the wild, gut-churning onrush seems almost worth it. The shaking stops, everything’s quiet, and Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) beholds the stratosphere, the sky layered with orange, white, and deep violet—until the nose of the plane turns downward and the rattles return with a vengeance.

Chazelle’s opening sequence hooks you on so many levels you can get motion-sickness thinking back on it. In 1961, humans

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