What Neil Armstrong Biopic First Man Gets Right and Wrong About the Moon Landing

There are two ways of talking about the historical accuracy of First Man, the Damien Chazelle biopic of Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong, starring Ryan Gosling: the easy way and the hard way. The hard way is to explore all of the things the movie got right — which is a very, very long list. The easy way is to discuss the things it got wrong, which you could count on one hand — literally.

It is one of the many triumphs of First Man that it tells an exceedingly complicated story of an exceedingly complicated man — a story populated by dozens of other important figures — and does so almost entirely without eliding or streamlining the truth, or worse, inventing things completely. A lot of the credit for that accuracy goes to the diligence of James R. Hansen, the author of the First Man biography, and Josh Singer, who adapted the book for the screen. It says something too that the few mistakes First Man does make are relatively small-bore stuff.

One of those blunders appears early, in the very first moments of the movie, during the scene of a harrowing flight Armstrong took in an X-15 rocket plane in 1961. The scene is true to what happened: Armstrong’s violent ride into the stratosphere, more than 20 miles above the ground, which took a nasty turn when he nearly couldn’t return to Earth as the plane began “ballooning,” or bouncing off the top of the atmosphere rather than slicing back into it. The scene is true too to the claustrophobic look of the X-15 cockpit. What isn’t so true is when we look out the window at the wispy carpet of clouds just below Armstrong’s wings — a lovely enough scene, except that at 120,000 feet, Armstrong was at about twice the altitude at which even the highest clouds form. Minor glitch, surely, except that coming in the film’s opening act, it doesn’t inspire confidence.

Read more: First Man Doesn’t Quite Live Up to Ryan Gosling’s Thoughtful Neil Armstrong Performance

The good news is you have to wait a long time to have your confidence shaken even a little again. That happens during the flight of Gemini 8 — Armstrong’s first trip into space, and nearly his last, as the spacecraft spun wildly out of control. This time the problem was in the cockpit, which was rendered with exacting accuracy

Source:: Time – Entertainment


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