A fly-over of the Sputnik satellite one October day changes the life of the son of a miner who thought he had a pre-determined destiny to follow his father's footsteps. His mission to build a rocket... View more >
language, brief teen sensuality and alcohol use, and for some thematic elements
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, William Lee Scott... View more >
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October Sky (1999)
The week after the release of 'Blast from the Past' (set partly in the early 1960's), 'October Sky' opened in American theaters. Set around the time of the Sputnik launch, 'Sky' is the superior of the two films.
The opening shots establish the story in the town of Coalwood, West Virginia in October of 1957, scenes of Americana drifting by - a barber paused in his shaving of a patron, folks gathered in a diner, all listening to reports of the shot heard and seen around the world, the start of the space race. The camera settles in a classroom of Big Creek High School, where Miss Riley (Laura Dern) tells her charges that the Russian launch is a milestone in history. Some students are cynical, and later we hear one comment, "Let 'em have space. We have rock 'n' roll!"
Seventeen year-old Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses himself in dreams of rockets after the townspeople are held spellbound by the actual satellite moving across the sky, disappearing behind a wooded mountain. When Homer makes up his mind to find out all he can about rocketry, he enlists the help of the school nerd, Quentin (Chris Owen) and two old buddies, Roy Lee (William Lee Scott) and O'Dell (Chad Lindberg). Their first attempt is a cylinder filled with bottle rocket powder, a contraption that takes out a goodly section of Mrs. Hickam's white picket fence. What follows is the boys' determined efforts to rig and launch a workable missile. John Hickam (Chris Cooper), manager of the town's industry, the Olga Coal Company, forbids anything related to rockets on company property. So the foursome walks the eight miles to Snake Root, where they construct a pad on a massive slag pile.
A good deal of humor accrues when the launches fail again and again. The homemade rockets explode in various manners - before they leave the ground, a few feet in the air, or after a series of mis-aimed - and at times dangerous - short flights. Of course the boys meet various obstacles, including continued resistance from Homer's dad, and a run-in with the police. Will they succeed even in entering the regional science fair, an event that Miss Riley says may lead to the national fair, and on to possible college scholarships? In other words, will the boys stumble upon a way out of a future of toil and black lung disease, of living in company houses in a town that exists, literally, to mine coal?
Director Joe Johnston and screenwriter Lewis Colick make good use of this theme of taking a shot at the American dream. Their story moves logically, if a bit predictably, the boys meeting and outsmarting one problem after another. Perhaps we believe in their successes so readily because we are told early about the true basis for the film. Homer H. Hickam Jr. wrote the memoir 'Rocket Boys', and the historical tone set by the plot events serves to convince viewers of accuracy.
Tinged by nostalgia, the film shows us several sides of American life. We watch the boys grow through an important stage, one which pits them against the trials of young manhood. Yes, it's a cliché when they try to get a leg-up on their way out of dreary futures, but their plights are all the more poignant because of the time: we ask ourselves if these conditions could have existed so recently.
A result of solid casting, the acting in the film is outstanding. Laura Dern is the biggest name but has a smallish part. Though her accent sounds like it comes from parts south of West Virginia, Dern is thoroughly convincing as a teacher gutsy enough to stand up to a principal who says, "We're here to give these boys an education, not false hopes." Chris Cooper is a veteran character actor who plays John Hickam as a hard man. Our distance toward him changes continuously. We dislike him when he busts a company machinist for helping Homer weld a steel washer onto a rocket; we like him for his strange reveling at being good at what he does - knowing the mine like a man, and saving many men from crippling or fatal accidents. Cooper plays well an average-looking man up thrown in against not only a tough job, but his son's vision of a life that doesn't include coal mining.
But Jake Gyllenhaal is the big discovery here. This young man has no trouble pretending the camera isn't there. His looks and mannerisms are thoroughly American - tough, independent, fun-loving. He also carries scenes without overshadowing the actors around him.
The photography is mostly seamless, getting the job done without calling too much attention to itself. There is a shot that lingers just too long on the maw of the mineshaft elevator - the hole down which the lives of Coalwood's men disappear. Other scenes are edited masterfully, especially the montages of the boys' mishaps. Long shots of rocket ascents inspire the proper awe.
The score is punctuated by period songs, early rock and roll standards that help set the mood even faster than the vintage sedans parked all over the streets. Important scenes are frequently accompanied by a lone violin wavering between classical air and fiddle piece.
Why is 'October Sky' better than 'Blast from the Past'? Their different natures would warrant a much longer review. The main point of comparison is the handling of mid-century America. 'Blast from the Past' picks and chooses film clips about the Cuban missile crisis and sets that highlight early 60's interior decoration, all in service of a romantic comedy with big name players. 'October Sky' is a smaller film that shows slices of grittier realism, a vehicle that recalls a time filled both with prosperity and anxiety. Although the last several minutes are filled with too many plot twists, and perhaps try too hard to avoid sentimentality, 'October Sky' is a strong addition to the canon of truly American tales.
This story about four boys who are insprired to build a rocket after the Sputnik was launched into orbit by the Russians is really great. The story is set in a mining town in West Virginia. Homer is a boy in high school that knows that he is going to enter the mining business someday is the main character. However, his hobby of rocket building and the guidence from his teacher give him, and three other boys, the courage to get past the ridicule the rest of their classmates have demonstated. Leading this embarrassment is Homer's brother, Jim, a football player who has a scholarship to play football. Eventually, Homer has to decide between mining and rocket building.
I encourage everybody to go and see this movie. It is filled with great performers, a strong storyline and it has the power to inspire those who see it.. Go tonight and see it!!
**** out of ****, two thumbs up!! Go now!
This is the true story of one Homer H. Hickam Jr., a young high school boy being raised in a coal mining town in America, 1957.
Coalwood, was the name of the place. The coal mine is the reason the town exists. Everyone works there, and all of the children (boys) are expected to grow up and work in the mine as well. Their lives have been predetermined.
....except the Hickam boys.
Homer, the youngest son of John Hickam, a foreman over at the mine knows that he doesn't want to work in the mine when he grows up, but sees only one way of getting out of Coalwood. A football scholarship. His older brother is good at football, so it only stands to reason that he should be as well.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Doomed to spend his life in Coalwood, Homer's life is forever changed in October 1957 when the Russians launch Sputnik. The first orbiting satellite in outer space. Fascinated by the streak of light shooting across the night sky, Homer sets his dreams on building a rocket that will someday take him to the same heights.
With the help of his three friends, Homer attempts to achieve his dream. Encouraged by one of his high school teachers, Miss Riley (played by <A HREF="http://us.imdb.com/Name?Dern,+Laura">Laura Dern</A>), and with help from a nerdy classmate, Quentin (played by <A HREF="http://us.imdb.com/Name?Owen,+Chris+(I)">Chris Owen</A>), he builds and attempts to fly several rockets. However, his father resists this silliness, and tells him that his life is in the mine.
The only "big name" in the movie that I recognized was Laura Dern (Jurassic Park). She did a great job with her role as the school teacher. Heck, everyone in this film did a great job with their roles.
I found myself wanting to see more about how Homer (played by <A HREF="http://us.imdb.com/Name?Gyllenhaal,+Jake">Jake Gyllenhaal</A>) goes on to work for NASA, but realized that the movie wasn't about his life story, but about that special time in his young life where everything came into focus.
I thought this movie was very good, and would recommend seeing it.
<B>Copyright 1999</B> - <I>Ron Higgins No unauthorized publication or distribution without theconsent of Ron Higgins.</I>
October Sky is the kind of movie that makes you feel good inside - you leave the movie with the knowledge of what its like to be a poor teenager plaqued by the thought of never leaving this small West Virgina town and working in the coal mines for the rest of your life. One lad enlists the help of three other schoolmates one the school nerd, one with a physcial handicapp and the other who is abused by his stepfather. The boys band together and build rockets and launch them only to have failure after failure until one day they have success. Their is a science fair and scholarships to win and the boys decide to "go for broke" and try to win. See this movie it will remind you of growing up in the late 40's and early 50's
One of the best movies I've seen in a long time.
The movie is based on a true story. A very interesting and unique movie. ****1/2 out of *****.
October Sky was an entertaining film about the story of the Rocket Boys from West Virginia, who made a rocket for a science fair and won the national science fair. By virture of this achievement, they were all able to leave Coalwood and the coal mine there and go to college. The suspense in the film is not about these facts. What remains is how to play the characters. The idea of a dying coal town taking its residents with it is a reality faced by many in the 60's. The imagined conflicts between the generations of those who worked for the mine and their sons who yearned for a better future are dramatized here. There are some emotional moments that are cheap. And there are some strings pulled a little too cutely. But it is a film that will inspire and entertain.
First of all....I liked it. You might be wondering what type of film is this...well, put simply...it is a feel good movie. It makes you feel good for a few reasons: watching a family grow and struggle as they deal with each other's individuality; knowing that sometimes dreams do come true; and that even the most stubborn person can change. Here is a story of a second child who is lost in a family structure that focuses on the accomplishments of the elder sibling and rewards the younger sibling only when he does exactly what is expected of him (no matter how low those expectations may have been.) This is the true story of a young man and his friends who dreamed they could reach the stars (literally) and someday be the people they wanted to be. The story takes place in a small mining town in West Virginia where only a select few of the youth accomplish their goal of leaving the town's borders to follow their dreams. You will follow four of the town's youth as they learn about rockets, science, and life. The film does lack some depth in the area of seeking emotional ties with the audience, but that doesn't really hurt the film, it just doesn't enhance the quality of it. Bottom line...if you like films like "Rudy", "Field of Dreams", "Lean on Me", and "Stand By Me" then you should see this one. Rating: 6 of 10.
the movie was realy great I loved it after I saw it I told every one new to go see it, it will make you cry and make laph, to see homer trying to get his rocket into the sky, and then seeing the rocket finally sore into the sky was cool. and the problems homer and his friend went through just for a dream he has. I think you should see it if you havnt.
by Aaron Orosz
This movie is just fantastic! It will lift your spirits and give you back the feeling you had as a kid - that anything is possible, if you just want it badly enough!
One of the best movies of 1999. "October Sky" is the true story of a coal miner's son who became a rocket scientist. This is a film that will inspired anyone to do incridible things as long as he or she can set their minds too. When is the last time that geeks and jocks ever work together on anything? How about the performance of Chris Cooper as the father. One of the best of his career. "October Sky" is the dramatic version of "Breaking Away," The 1979 movie about kids who dream big. This is truly a wonderful film experience. Note:I saw the movie three days after the death of film critic Gene Siskel. I dedicated this movie to his memory. He has inspired me to dream big, just like the rocket scientist in "October Sky."
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