‘First Man’ Movie Review: One Small Step For Ryan Gosling, One Giant Leap For Omega
'First Man' provides a intimate look at the Apollo 11 mission and the life of the late Neil Armstrong. Of course, any film about the moon landing wouldn't be complete without the "Moon Watch" and Omega came through with more than enough period correct pieces.
(This article contains spoilers for the film ‘First Man’)
You've no doubt heard of the film ‘First Man,' after all, the film stars Ryan Gosling, one of Hollywood’s leading men. It also tells the story of one of the most notable events of the modern age, a man’s mission to the moon on Apollo 11. You may ask yourself, why am I reading a movie review on Watchonista? Well, it's quite simple. The film and the actual missions portrayed within feature a ton of Omega watches.
Watchonista was recently invited (by Omega) to a screening of the film before its official release on Friday, October 12th. While we're not in the movie review business, we felt it relevant to talk about a movie that features watches and their essential responsibility on the Apollo missions. Hyla Bauer and Josh Shanks were both present for the screening and give their takes below.
I was thrilled to be Omega’s guest at a screening of The First Man. The movie is powerful and riveting, and I’m delighted to be writing about it, but I feel a little bit like the guy in the commercial who says “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.”
Ryan Gosling deserves an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the legendary astronaut. A man of few words, Armstrong is shut off emotionally, grieving for his daughter while he is spinning through space. Gosling expresses all of this, and more with his eyes - whether through his space helmet or at a dinner party.
There’s a lot of tragedy and triumph in Armstrong’s life, and the powers that be in government keep a tight grip on Armstrong and his fellow astronauts. They are not autonomous but subject to firm controls imposed by NASA, which was struggling to keep government funding to keep the Apollo program alive.
I am a huge fan of the Netflix series The Crown. I thought that it would be hard to see Claire Foy, who plays the Queen in the series, as anything else but the Queen. However, as Armstrong's wife Janet, she transported herself seamlessly into the role of the astronaut’s wife.
Near the end of the film, Janet gets bombarded by the press after the successful landing. A reporter asks: “what was the trip like?” and she says “out of this world.” The First Man is one of the best movies I’ve seen in the past few years. Out of this world sums it up perfectly.
'First Man' ticked a lot of boxes for me. Growing up in a generation of Star Wars and Star Trek, I can count on one hand the number of quality biographical films about space exploration that I’ve seen. As a kid, I was one of the many millions who wanted to be an astronaut. The movie ‘The Right Stuff,' which featured the Mercury 7 astronauts and my childhood hero Chuck Yeager, gave me space fever. While that film captured the spirit and aspiration of early manned space flight, there have been few substantial films that portrayed this era of space exploration in the last few decades.
Sure, the Ron Howard film ‘Apollo 13’ was a space nerd’s dream, but it leapfrogged the earlier successful Apollo moon landings. So when I heard a film about the Apollo 11 mission was in the works, I was intrigued. When Ryan Gosling was announced as playing the lead character Neil Armstrong, I’ll admit I was a bit stunned that director Damien Chazelle would cast such a well-known and recognizable actor to play, well, such a well-known American Hero. For me, the heartthrob just didn't fit the mold of an American hero. HOWEVER, after seeing the film, I must say, Gosling nailed it. He seamlessly morphed into Neil Armstrong. You can tell that Gosling intently studied Armstrong’s mannerisms, personality, and family history. It was a delight to see Gosling in such an atypical role.
The supporting cast was quite strong as well, and two performances stood out for me, Jason Clarke's (Chappaquiddick, Everest, Terminator Genisys) excellent portrayal of Ed White, and Claire Foy’s (The Crown) emotional performance as Janet Armstrong. Overall, I felt the film captured the Apollo 11 mission well in a way that only modern cinema and special effects can achieve. The character development was a bit sparse at times, we knew an awful lot about the Armstrong and White families (perhaps because they were neighbors), but other notable astronauts like Gus Grissom (who died during an Apollo I plugs out test fire) and Omega Ambassador Buzz Aldrin had little screen time in comparison to Gosling’s Armstrong. But after all, the film is called ‘First Man' not ‘Second Man.'
Final thoughts: I believe ‘First Man’ completes a trilogy of sorts, the first film being ‘The Right Stuff’ that accurately portrays the development of the space program from test pilots through to the Mercury program, ‘First Man’ picks up with the Gemini program through Apollo 11. Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 showed us what can go wrong in space flight and how man can overcome adversity (with the help of a certain Omega Speedmaster) and get back to earth safely.
The Omega Connection
It’s well known horological folklore that Omega supplied NASA with the watches for the Apollo missions. But seeing such historically accurate utilization of the timepieces in this stellar film was a watch lover's dream. For most of the scenes, Gosling sports an early Omega CK2605, an early precursor to the Seamaster. For the space flight and testing scenes, Gosling wears a Speedmaster ref. 105.003 ‘Ed White.' Finally, for the Apollo 11 mission scenes, the iconic Speedmaster ref. 105.012 is worn during the mission and eventual moon landing. From 1969 through to today, this watch has been a staple in Omega's Speedmaster collection.