This year’s Venice Film Festival is taking a different approach to film critic attendance, embargoing any reviews and social media reaction until after the film’s premiere has begun. As a result, those who are seeing films early at press screenings beforehand will be scoring a lot more time to both consider and write-up their reviews for a film.
The result should hopefully be a more measured amount of praise or dismissal to films screening there, as opposed to quick knee-jerk tweets with everyone trying to outdo everyone else’s gush or bile. The festival’s opening film, Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong feature “First Man,” was the first to be subjected to the new system today.
It appears to have worked. The Ryan Gosling-led film has been met with a very positive reception, with numerous critics praising the feature and doing so in well thought out full reviews which also discuss its flaws. Here’s a sampling of some:
“”First Man” is a docudrama in the most authentic and exciting sense of the word. Chazelle knows that the story of the NASA space program has been told before (quite memorably, in its way, in “The Right Stuff”) so his audacious strategy is to make a movie so revelatory in its realism, so gritty in its physicality, that it becomes a drama of thrillingly hellbent danger and obsession. Chazelle restricts the action almost entirely to the point-of-view of the astronauts themselves: the things they literally see and hear during their missions.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“B+. An immersive, immaculately crafted, often spectacular and satisfyingly old-fashioned epic that may well become the definitive moon-landing movie… Marshaling career-best contributions from every department, it is for better and worse, Chazelle’s least personal film, while at the same time being his most bravura performance as a conductor of a cinematic orchestra… there’s minimal flag-waving here, making it a universal story about tenacity and sacrifice, rather than anything more overtly patriotic.” – Jessica Kiang, The Playlist
“This is a respectful movie, even a genuflecting one; there’s never a moment when Chazelle fails to let you know he’s doing important, valuable work. But that’s the problem: The movie feels too fussed-over for such a low-key hero. Its star, Ryan Gosling, turns in a discreet, sensitive performance, almost too sensitive for the movie around it.” – Stephanie Zacharek, TIME
“4/5. Damien Chazelle hits the key of C major with his visually ravishing, dramatically conservative story of Neil Armstrong. A more questioning or nuanced movie might have placed the moon landing halfway through the story and then focused on the long, mysterious and anti-climactic nature of Armstrong’s life on earth. Chazelle – understandably – makes the moon landing the climax and the glorious main event. It is a movie packed with wonderful vehemence and rapture.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“The extent to which mainstream audiences will respond to the lengthy film’s unfaltering restraint remains to be seen. But this is a strikingly intelligent treatment of a defining moment for America that broadens the tonal range of Chazelle… What is perhaps most notable is the film’s refusal to engage in the expected jingoistic self-celebration that such a milestone would seem to demand.” – David Rooney, THR
“Chazelle reminds us that space exploration has always been risky and terrifying, with men closing themselves inside tiny metal machines that were created by other men…”First Man” depicts the great accomplishments of NASA as huge gambles; like the best historical dramas, the film creates suspense over events whose outcome we already know.” – Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
““First Man” is an anti-thriller of rare intensity, with lived-in performances from Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy heightening the sky-high drama at every turn. It’s not a comprehensive look at the Apollo 11 mission, but revisits that famous story from a more intimate angle, even as it delivers a satisfying ride… It’s a kind of first-person procedural, less concerned with the nuts and bolts of these undertakings than one man’s experience of them.” – Michael Nordine, Indiewire
“First Man” is slated to open in cinemas on October 12th in wide release.