"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 reality.
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.
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