Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of FIRST MAN

First Man, rated PG-13
** ½

First Man is a film about astronaut Neil Armstrong, leading up to and including his historic trip to the moon. The film was highly anticipated as it was directed by three-time Oscar nominee and winner for La La Land, Damien Chazelle, who also directed the excellent Whiplash, and written by Oscar winner Josh Singer (Spotlight) based on the book by First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen. The film tries to be as historically accurate as possible, with Armstrong’s sons working with the filmmakers.
The film has a solid cast led by two-time Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling (La La Land, Half Nelson) as Neil Armstrong. The film is not just about the Apollo 11 mission, and Armstrong being the first man to walk on the moon. It delves deeply into Armstrong’s strained relationship with his wife Janet, played by Golden Globe winner Claire Foy (The Crown).

***SPOILER ALERT***
After their young daughter Karen dies, Neil becomes distant and throws himself into his work at NASA. A very high percentage of marriages can’t survive the loss of a child, and the Armstrongs were not an exception, as they divorced in 1994 after 38 years of marriage. Armstrong was a hero, one that his family referred to as a reluctant American hero. He died in 2012.
The film follows Armstrong from his early days as a pilot, joining NASA, time on the Gemini program, including the near fatal Gemini 8 mission, and through the historic 1969 Apollo 11 mission with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. The film conveys how dangerous being an astronaut was, as we see or hear about several astronauts dying, including Armstrong’s friend and neighbor Ed White, played by Jason Clarke (Chappaquiddick).
The film shows that not everyone in the country was in support of the space program with its cost and danger, while the country was facing many problems at the time.
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The film is visually stunning thanks to cinematographer Oscar winner Linus Sandgren (La La Land), especially the scenes on the moon, which were controversial because they do not depict Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon.
Themes include patriotism, family, dedication to work at the expense of family, grief following the loss of a child and friends, and danger. Content concerns include some adult language and the death of astronauts.
First Man was in some ways brilliant, notably when it gives the viewer a feeling of what the rocket blast-off was like, as the screen shook and the camera pans over to the bolts (will they hold?). I don’t like even the slightest bit of turbulence when flying, but this film, perhaps better than any other, gives us a feeling of what the experience in the cockpit of a rocket would be like. The acting was excellent, not only by Gosling and Foy, but also by the solid supporting cast. But in other ways, the film was much too slow, including a final drawn out scene between Gosling and Foy as they meet for the first time upon his return from the moon, and a good twenty minutes too long.


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My Review of UNSANE

Unsane, rated R
** ½

Unsane is a disturbing psychological thriller starring Claire Foy of The Crown, that definitely keeps your interest throughout but has some content issues (see below) and needs a better ending.
The film is directed by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) and written by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer, who last worked together on The Spy Next Door. The film reportedly had a budget of just $1.2 million, and was shot creatively using an iPhone camera, adding to the intensity that the viewer experiences.  The viewer has to decide whether the lead character is a victim of a stalker or of mental illness.

***SPOILER ALERT***
Sawyer Valentini, played by Golden Globe winner Claire Foy (The Crown), lived in Boston where she was being stalked by a man named David Strine, played by Joshua Leonard. The two originally met while Sawyer was caring for David’s father as he was dying. David became obsessed with her during that time. Sawyer is traumatized by David, and this has negatively impacted every facet of her life.
To get away from him, she takes a job in Pennsylvania about 450 miles away to start a new life. There however, she has no friends or family, and continues to feel like David is stalking her. After an experience with a date reminds her of her stalker, she realizes that she needs help. She seeks out the help of a counselor at the Highland Creek hospital. After her first session, she completes what she believes and is told is just routine “boilerplate” paperwork, but that paperwork voluntarily commits her to at least a 24 hour stay in the mental health ward.
As can be expected, Sawyer reacts violently to being held against her will and strikes one of the employees, resulting in increasing her time in the hospital to a minimum of seven days.
Sawyer first calls the police and then her mother Angela, played by Oscar nominee Amy Irving (Yentl), pleading with her to get her out of the hospital. Her mother tells her that she will work with lawyers to get her out.
Sawyer meets other patients in the hospital, including an angry and violent Violet, played by Juno Temple, and another who is friendly toward her, Nate, played by Jay Pharoah (Saturday Night Live). Nate tells her that she is being held as a part of an insurance scam by the hospital.
Sawyer then sees David (her stalker) working in the hospital handing out medication.  As we watch the film, we don’t really know if Sawyer is being held against her will, or if she is actually mentally ill. I’ll bet you’ll want to rewrite the ending like we did in order to make it more satisfying – maybe more on the order of The Sixth Sense?
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The film earns its “R” rating due to a substantial amount of adult language, including some of a sexual nature, and a few abuses of God’s name. The film also contains a significant amount of violence, tending toward a horror movie genre at times.
Unsane features a strong performance by Claire Foy as Sawyer, as she plays a character very much different from Queen Elizabeth. The film is a disturbing, nightmarish psychological thriller with some content concerns and would certainly not be considered family friendly.  By the way, there were some really scary previews that went along with this movie!