James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Cole Clay // Film Critic
Film and art are totally subjective, but when the dust settles from 2018 and we get some distance from the film year that was, I believe Damien Chazelle’s FIRST MAN will be looked at as a modern classic and one of the best films of the decade. However, not everybody has felt that way; this is a film that morphs and takes on different meanings upon repeat viewing.
For those that may not be aware, FIRST MAN chronicles Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), his wife Janet Armstrong (Claire Foy) and the years living in Houston as NASA franticly prepares to land on the moon with less-than-stellar equipment. It was the loss, the focus and the drive that shaped the incredible legacy of the Armstrong’s life.
We often forget, especially those who weren’t alive during the 1969 landing, how remarkable of a feat this event was for all of human life. Chazelle (LA LA LAND) with screenwriter Josh Singer (SPOTLIGHT) created a story that is one of the most impressive cinematic achievements in recent memory. On one hand, the story is a journey through grief, marriage dynamics and personal responsibility; on the other, it’s a harrowing film about the exploration of other worlds while dealing with the social and economic pressure that come with funding the space program. FIRST MAN is a film with a message – a message that will ring true throughout time.
The Blu-ray comes equipped with a sparkling transfer, so that the colors pop as the images hit with sound design that bring the experience right to your living room. And, as for the features go, the little featurettes are short in length, but dense with valuable information about the film at large. Effort went into making this release an engaging as well as informative look behind the scenes.
The crown jewel of this disc in terms of features is a feature-length commentary to cure all your obsessive Blu-ray needs. FIRST MAN remains one of the most special films of 2018, while ushering in the first great home entertainment release of 2019.
Audio Commentary: Director Damien Chazelle, screenwriter Josh Singer and editor Tom Cross sit down for a 141 minute long discussion of the film. These filmmakers bringing a practical, yet emotionally moving perspective on the life of Neil Armstrong, discussing everything from technical issues, to the creative process – a perfect experience for any aspiring filmmaker, or film lover.
Deleted Scenes: At only four minutes long, the deleted scenes pack an emotional wallop depicting a house fire that almost cost the Armstrongs everything, as well as a glimpse into the Apollo 8 launch.
Shooting the Moon: Chazelle shines a light on how he came aboard the project and how his collaboration with actor Ryan Gosling helped him fall in love with the material.
Preparing to Launch: The famous Apollo 11 mission that landed Armstrong on the moon is the first time it has been put to film. The filmmakers discuss how little we actually knew about the world’s most famous mission to the unknown.
Giant Leap in One Small Direction: Armstrong may be the world’s greatest explorer; this special feature highlights the people behind the scenes who made the mission to the moon successful.
Mission Gone Wrong: A cool look in how movie star Ryan Gosling did his best Tom Cruise and played stuntman for a few action sequences.
Putting You In Your Seat: One of FIRST MAN’S greatest strengths is found within its frames. Take a look at the methodology and camera tricks that helped paint one of the greatest depictions of a human being ever to be captured on screen.
Recreating the Moon Landing: The fateful sequence that helped the visual effects team of FIRST MAN earn an Oscar nomination. Take a look at how this task was executed.
Shooting At NASA: NASA is a place that many humans romanticized. This feature shows you that Hollywood’s biggest stars get a bit excited about the space station as well!
Astronaut Training: It takes a super human to train for the astronaut program. This feature highlights just how intense the tests truly can be.
Reverse Engineering NASA: No matter how accurate the film can be, a true space expert will be able to find an error within the film. This feature discusses the nuances in depicting the equipment across the early lunar missions.