“No. Coal mining may be your life, but it’s not mine. I’m never going down there again. I wanna go into space.”
Based on the memoir Rocket Boys, October Sky tells the story of Homer Hickam, a young boy whose love for rockets and space is peaked after the news of Sputnik, the first satellite, being sent into orbit. However, being from the mining town Coalwood, he’s raised to believe that his future will contain nothing but mining. Homer continues his love of rockets by gathering with three friends, and testing rockets in a nearby town. Thus, giving them the opportunity to get a college scholarship and create more possibilities for their future. Maybe it’s because it’s based on a true story, but October Sky is a powerful film that will touch you every time you watch it.
The story of Homer and his friends trying to achieve something bigger than themselves, makes for the ultimate feel good movie. After watching October Sky for the first time, I couldn’t help but cry at the ending, and in the times that I’ve seen it since, I still cry. The story is so relatable, that even 20 years later, this film is able to resonate with both young and old people alike. This makes for one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s earliest works, and you would never know it. He comes into the movie, playing the main character, I might add, and handling the character of Homer with such professionalism. We should have all known that he was not just going to be some flash in the pan. Gyllenhaal’s interactions with Chris Cooper show the animosity between Homer and his father, and adding to the struggle that Homer goes through while trying to create a better life for himself. But it’s Laura Dern’s character of Ms. Riley that helps Homer to truly embrace his dream. Even when the other authority figures put him down. Though Dern doesn’t have much screen time, she is still perfect nonetheless. The performances, from all the actors, make the film that much more incredible. You feel like you’re watching these real-life characters onscreen.
Director Joe Johnston, most likely known for his direction of Jumanji and Captain America: The First Avenger, shows his talents at bringing these real-life people to the big screen. Johnston takes each character and handles them with such care and respect. Though we might have a few dislikable characters, they’re never manhandled or thrown to the side. It’s true that Johnston has seen his fair share of work in this industry, but October Sky has to be my favorite. But the emotional aspect of the film is taken to new heights with the soundtrack by Mark Isham. This is one of the most stunning scores that you will ever hear. Isham perfectly blends the town’s coalmining roots with the sounds of triumph and emotion. Without Isham’s score, I would go as far to say that October Sky would not be the same. But like so many great films, everything about October Sky came together perfectly.
October Sky is one of the most relatable films that will ever grace your television screen. For anyone who has ever wanted to make something more out of themselves, October Sky does a beautiful job at grabbing ahold of those misfits and telling them you can truly follow your dreams. Though it may sound sappy, this film is a must watch for those wanting a compelling and true-life story. 20 years later, and October Sky is still that same beautiful film that will stay in your mind long after you have finished it.
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Homer Hickam Jr., and Lewis Colick
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, and Laura Dern