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October Sky[1] is, like Apollo 13, a movie I need to watch more often, and I am again embarrassed to admit that this is only the second time I’ve seen it.

October Sky is the story of Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal), Quentin Wilson (Chris Owen), Roy Lee Cook (William Lee Scott), and Sherman O’Dell (Chad Lindberg) building rockets in the shadow of Sputnik[2], often against the wishes of their community of Coalwood.

This is a film with a slow emotional build, it is in many respects a classic coming of age story only with rockets! The classic tropes of the kid who isn’t understood by his father, but desperately wants his respect, the disapproving authorities[3], etc, are all there.

Not to mention the near traditional[4] failure montage of rockets blowing up in embarrassing ways. 🙂

Also present is the theme of, to paraphrase Steven Brust, failure leading to maturity, and maturity then leading to success. If October Sky has a weakness, it is that the mental/emotional failure section is possibly overlong, and could have been tightened a bit.

The strength of October Sky lies in the fact that it is, mostly and allowing for the vagaries of pragmatic adaptations, a true story. This includes the tragic role of their teacher Freida J. Riley (Laura Dern) who inspired them, supported them, and really did die of Hodgkin’s Disease far too young[5].

The West Virginian coal mining town of Coalwood is superbly recreated within the film, and it looks and sounds great[6].

In short: October Sky looks great, the cast are all solid, and it all pays off with an emotional kick like a mule at the end.

I’m not crying, it’s just very dusty in here.

October Sky is a film that I thoroughly recommend, chase it down if you can.

[1] The title is an anagram of Rocket Boys, the autobiography of Homer H. Hickam, Jr.

[2] Which, in October 1957, provides a neat title drop of October Sky in a radio broadcast.

[3] Many of whom rapidly change their tunes once the Rocket Boys start making them look good.

[4] Why hello The Right Stuff and The Wings of Honneamise, did you want your schtick back? 🙂

[5] You may take the obligatory expletives in respect of cancer as a given.

[6] That said I may go looking to upgrade my DVD to a BluRay if there’s one out there.