Director Damien Chazelle and his musical love story La La Land may have held the Best Picture Oscar for only 60 seconds before Moonlight was crowned the rightful winner, but it was enough to give the young filmmaker a taste of Hollywood’s most prestigious honor. Now it seems Chazelle, 33, is on a simple mission: Continue to make stellar films that enamor audiences and move static souls.
For his third feature, Chazelle has moved out of his musical comfort zone to tackle a Neil Armstrong biopic. Starring his La La Land leading man, Ryan Gosling, First Man will depict the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969, the most dangerous of its kind. Audiences have been anticipating this picture ever since that immortal Oscars snafu—we even named it our choice for Best Picture in our way-too-early 2019 Oscars predictions.
On Tuesday night, First Man premiered at the Venice Film Festival, giving critics their first look at the space drama. So Did Chazelle cement himself as a powerhouse in filmmaking or did his shift away from music impair his most natural instincts?
Here’s what the critics are saying.
Of course, this is just a small sample size, but based on early reactions it looks like First Man may live up to, and perhaps exceed, expectations. It could be that rare prestige blockbuster that is a commercial hit and an awards contender—the daring accomplishment we’re hoping for from the Hollywood wunderkind, who was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for 2014’s Whiplash.
In addition to Gosling, the film boasts an impressive cast that includes Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll and Ciarán Hinds. It hits theaters October 12.