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"October Sky" is a film that will steal your heart, fill your mind with
vivid imagery, and lift your spirit. The tale of Homer Hickham and his dream
of creating a rocket seem so simple at first, especially when the film is
set in a mining town, where the future is as clear cut as the lumps of coal
in the mine. But Homer cannot follow in his father's footsteps. With the
encouragement of Miss Riley,(a friendly teacher), members of his father's
staff, and his friends, Homer attempts to make his dream a
Yet as in any true to life story, there are many stops along the way. Director Joe Johnston lowers us into the coal mines, where we witness the chilling plight of miners stooped beneath a ceiling of rock. With lit helmets and bent posture, they resembled alien insectoids more than humans in the darkness. The hacking coughs of the miners and the blackened faces were a constant reminder of the danger the miners faced in their work.
Contrasting the mine shaft's lugubrious load are the images of Homer and his friend's rocket launches. Underneath the blue bowl of sky, rockets are placed upon a pad and launched into the stratosphere...And nothing can match the scene when Homer sees Sputnik for the first time.
Yet what makes the film so endearing is the relationship between the characters. Homer's father is a classic hardened man...but he has a soft side as well. We see that he does love his son, despite their many arguments. The love and support of Miss Riley is evident as well. Best of all, the film is uncomfortable. It doesn't tie everything up in a nice bow. It tears at you, lifts you up. It keeps an air of reality, which is important in a film like this.
This film can be considered a complete work. At first, I was disappointed that the film did not continue with Homer's life. I didn't want it to end. Then I realized...that's what a good film does to a person. If it has done its job, you won't want it to end. And "October Sky" accomplishes just that.
1.) This movie was amazing! I watched it while I was in the town next to the one where he grew up! I went and saw the buildings that the story took place in. Overall, I loved this movie, One of Jake Gyllenhaal's best!! Also- my favorite parts were the science fair, and all the times with his father. They were so sad, it seemed. Homer wanted to follow his dream and his dad didn't seem to care one way or another. That tag line is true. "Sometimes One Dream is bright enough to light up the sky." 2.) The way this movie was shot was impeccable, it was all so believable that it could have been recorded during the 1950's. Dress was accurate and they had their slang down too. Definitely recommend this movie!
I loved this movie. It is one of the few movies that I have
consistently recommended to friends to rent and have had all of them
thank me for the referral. The film has some powerful themes that are
beautifully scripted. The acting is superb all around (Chris Cooper has
never turned in a bad acting role in my opinion!) The message of this
film is so well delivered, so powerful, that it moved me to tears the
first time I saw it. Not sad tears, which are easily solicited by
cinema formula, but tears of joy--a rare thing.
Although I did not grow up in the 1950's, I believe this film honestly portrays the mood and setting of the time. Given today's harsh world with all its complications, watching this film is a welcome escape to a time of innocence, wonder, and discovery. Highly recommended!
I have yet to read "The Rocket Boys", the book upon which this film is
based, but this situation will not continue! I did read a short story by
Hickam which was apparently the seed that started him on the novel. It
grabbed me even then.
I am one of those fortunate enough to have lived adjacent to Cape Canaveral during the Mercury program, where my father worked, and this childhood situation no doubt fostered my lifelong interests and hobbies. I also met Werner von Braun, and one of the other German rocket scientists repaired a rubber band driven model plane I had (I WISH I still had that plane!) I mention this because I went into the movie with serious expectations and very much desired to see a film with authentic treatments for the nostalgia and emotions of the period.
I was not disappointed. While there were superficial flaws here and there, the movie came together like so few Hollywood films do. Good storytelling, authentic emotions and period atmosphere. As others have experienced at this excellent film, I was choked up at the end and had to wipe away the tears. The father of the family next to me asked to borrow my spare paper napkin to wipe his tears. About half the audience applauded at the end, and most everyone stayed through the credits. It's just one of those films.
Not the greatest movie ever made, but one of the best family movies in a long time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was 1957 and Russia had just launched Sputnik. I was almost 12, and I
remember my father pointing up into the October sky as we tried to catch a
glimpse of the Earth's first artificial satellite orbiting overhead. Thus
the title "October Sky". In West Virginia the son of a coal miner became
intrigued with rockets and space travel and, in spite of his father's
urgings that he accept his fate and become a coal miner too, eventually won
the national science fair competition, and a college scholarship, ultimately
became a key member of the space exploration team of NASA. A wonderful and
inspiring story, and a superb film of that story.
Everyone was good in the film, but Chris Cooper as the miner boss and stubborn father was far and away the best in "October Sky." Although "rockets" is the theme, the film is primarily of the struggle of children trying to break out of the cycle and become more than just another coal miner. As an epilog we learn that all four of the "rocket boys" went to college, the father died of mining-related disease, the teacher of Hodgkins disease, and the whole town and mining operation was sold and shut down in the next decade.
This is a fine drama and a nice change of pace from today's more hectic
and loud films. It is another solid based-on-a-true store, which still
means much of it could be made up for dramatic purposes. Frankly, I
don't know but I liked the story.
The story is about a young man back in the Fifties who gets interested in rocketry and wants to enter that field instead of working in the coal mines as everyone else, including his father, does in this West Virginia town. The big problem is the conflict it causes between the boy and his father, which I think was overdone. I would like to have a little less tension between the two.
The young man, still a boy, is played by Jake Gyllenhaal, one of his first staring assignments, I think. He's likable, as are his school buddies in here. It's nice to see nice kids in a modern-day film. The two other key actors in the movie are Chris Cooper (the dad) and Laura Dern (the kid's teacher who encourages him all the time.)
The cinematography is decent the 1950s soundtrack is fun to hear. Once again: I wish there more of these kind of films made today.
This is a gem, a real piece of Americana for all that this implies. If you are self programed to resist "life-afirming" stories, just stay away and leave the pleasure to the rest of us who still believe. And what makes the frosting on the cake truly delectable is that it is fact based on a real rags to riches story, no need to nit-pick what details were changed to make a compact story. Chris Cooper is one of the greatest living actors, and the complex, self-conflicted, bottom-line good at the core father he portrayed could only be pulled off successfully by someone with his skill and insight. The simple minded comments, refusing to accept a father who tries to lay down the law all the while sensing that he may possibly be off-track, expose the limitation of the commentator, not the writers or the acting. This is not for the cynical, or the simple minded.
I was watching this when my wife called to inquire from the other room
as to my choice of fare. My comment? "I am watching my Life!"
Though younger, but only by 5 years or so, than the "Rocket Boys" I remember the absolute urgency with which Sputnick was greeted by our administrators of education and how the whole Science Fair thing gained momentum and took me and others into the competitive whirlwind. My own tornado landed me in my own State's Science Fair, in Physics by '62, though our group was less successful in gaining the support of, for example, firefighters we approached for guidance and counsel until after a tragic event, our city went so far as to allow us to tour the Nike missile site on Chicago's lakeshore.
This movie brought it all back for me and I will bet that it brought it all back for a bunch of us "UberNerds" of the late '50s and early 60's.
We are in a similar science brain drainage period now and really need this movie as a country. See It!
I resisted seeing this movie and I understand why it was not a big hit in
theatres. "October Sky" feels and looks oh so familiar. And it is. All
plot contrivances and emotions have been explored before in other films --
and possibly even better. But despite it's familiarity and resistance to
all formulas Hollywood, this movie is winning and likeable at every turn.
Sputnik is the inspiration for this journey of the heart, mind and soul. Just as the characters from Steven Sondheim's musical MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG stood agape atop their apartment roof hoping it would launch their new generation ("What do you call it? You call it a miracle."), Sputnik has a similar affect on the young rocket boys of this true tale. While jaded townsfolk of their 1950's coal town dismiss the event, Homer Hickham sees Sputnik as his ticket out of a life in the mines.
Masterful direction and casting make the journey of rocket boy Homer and his pals seem fresh and new. Especially affecting are subplots concerning Homer's ailing young school teacher. Remarkable restraint is shown in depicting their delicate relationship. Also remarkable is the father / son supblot that anchors the film. Perfectly played all around. Even Homer's mom gets her moment without cliche or intrusion. Her ultimatum to her husband is both dignified and heatbreaking. "Myrtle Beach" says it all.
A major video chain I despise has a sign next to this film stating that you'll love this film or they'll refund your money. For once, I agree with them. You'll never look at the October sky quite the same again.
There is an old saying that relates to the rousing new film by Joe Johnston
that goes something like this: "The man who thinks he can and the man who
thinks he can't are both right." That is a highly presumptuous statement
referring to self motivating and belief in an individual, which, in this
movie, stand true even after road blocks and family trouble stand in the
"October Sky" is about a young man who believes in himself named Homer Hickam, growing up in a strict, traditional family in the 1950's. Homer loves in a small coal mining town where nearly every man grows up to be a miner. All of his friends, Quentin, Roy, and O'Dell all think that their life after high school will be like everyone else's. Homer is not exited about that future.
One night, while everyone stares at the sky, a Russian space craft called Sputnik passes overhead. This is something new for Homer, and he finds it spectacular and overwhelming. From this point on, his look at life will never be the same.
First, he tells everyone that he wants to work in the rocket scientist area for an occupation. Flabbergasted at what he says, his family passes that idea over their heads and continues with life as usual His friends, however, think that this idea may have some potential. After all, Quentin is a very smart individual when it comes to this kind of thing.
When the four friends start to test model rockets, and blow a white picket fence to smithereens, then what seems to be a forest fire is scared by them, they're forced to end their progresses.
The performances in this movie are absolutely riveting from start to finish. All of the actors give performances as if this is the real mumbo jumbo here. Standing out in all of the glory: Laura Dern as Miss Riley. This very well may be Academy award material if the judges can remember back to the beginning of the year when this film is released.
The characters are also extremely well developed. Not only to the filmmakers give clear, apparent reason why Homer is interested in the subject, but they also explain to the audience how they are succeeding in their studding of rocketry. We clearly understand all of the characters' motives and beliefs, especially the father, who is bent over on everlasting tradition.
The film, unfortunately, loses some of its momentum at mid-point because of a silly, recycled romantic sub-plot involving Homer's love interest and how his brother stole her from him. This type of this is becoming so awfully common in high-school movies, not that this film is aimed at high-schoolers. The actors stare at each other mindlessly, like the are in a trance. I put up with it without complaining in 1997's "Inventing the Abbots," but I have had just about enough this.
But that is just a minor complaint. With an authentic looking time period, cinematography worth an Oscar and clips of the real life Homer and friends at the end, whom all hit it big with their dreams, especially Homer, this is the first great film of 1999.
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