Saturday, September 1, 2007

October Sky: An Inspiring Real Life Experience

Background
When it was announced this movie was gonna be screened in college, my first thoughts were-"October Sky? Never heard of it. Is this some sort of advertisement feature?(Remember the Gandhi play last year?) Or is this some landmark movie with amazing performances from great stars? Or does this movie have a plot closely related to college students like us?
Well, the first possibility was turned down once I found that this was a 1999 film. The 2nd possibility too was off- coz we would've surely heard bout it if it had been a watershed.
Actually, it turned out to be a simple feel-good movie (much like our very own "Chennai 600028"), with an inspiring plot.

The movie is an adaptation of the Book Rocket Boys http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_boys by NASA scientist Homer Hickam. The book is his auto-biography, and so the moment I looked it up in wiki, I knew the basic plot of the movie.
I felt there'd nothing new to watch and learn from the movie. But, then again, a rating of 93% in Rotten Tomatoes http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/october_sky/ (if u don't know what that site is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotten_tomatoes ) tickled my curiousity. I had to watch this one! So I was at the screening hall well in time, found a nice spot and spent some time watching the "birds" until it started.

Not as predictable as it seems
The movie starts off in 1957, with the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_1 and Homer Hickam (played by Jake Gyllenhaal, an average school going guy in a town called Coalwood is fascinated by the sight of it streaking through the sky. He is determined to create a rocket, but he must make sacrifices (like giving up his social life to get assistance from school weirdo Quentin), face challenges (He ain't in a town where rocket equipment are dime a dozen, and his dad's attitude doesn't help) and work harder than ever (His math is bad, and as his mentor Miss Riley says "You can't just dream your way into making a rocket Homer!"). We expect the "hero" (as we say in India) to do all this by the end of the movie, and the movie lives upto its reviews (that its very predictable).

But, its only as much predictable as this. There're twists and turns that catch you napping so often, that you begin to think whether these things ever really happened. One example is Ms.Riley's Hogdkin's disease. The fact that these things are true to the hilt and the vital fact that Homer doesn't know a thing about rockets when he sets out to make one reminds us of the old saying "Where there's a will, there's a way".

Balanced casting
The film's characters are well made, but I felt the whole movie is centred around Homer, paying less attention to the other Rocket Boys (so much so that one of them- O'Dell, almost goes unnoticed, except when discussing his late dad). Almost everybody else gets his/her share of our attention and empathy. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the lead for the first time, and he does a great job of it, although I felt he smiled unnecessarily sometimes.
The town thrives on the production and employment offered by the eponymous coal-mine. Homer's dad John is The Top Guy of the mine, and he prides himself on his work. This type of negative character is often found in such movies, playing the natural deterrent- that seemingly inexorable force which the protagonist must overcome in his goal to do something hitherto unheard of. A perfect foil to his character is Homer's mom. She loves her family very much and holds it from breaking apart when the rift between Homer and his dad widens. She can't tolerate her husband's unfair treating of Homer, and finally dares a face-off with John, thereby changing him for good.

Short and sweet
Altogether, the movie does nothing in excess- there're no sentimental melodrama, nor an overdose of happiness at the end. Its all very subtle and understated and thats where the movie is different, where it earned its rating. Homer doesn't get too depressed when he has to suspend his research on rockets and goto the mine, nor does he go over the moon when he wins the most coveted prize at the National Science Fair. In fact, he doesn't know that the man awarding him is the famous scientist Werner von Braun whom he admires.

The whole movie has all sorts of moments- moments for the slight grins and chuckles and for the tear out of the corner of the eye. It is a very balanced feel-good movie that leaves you feeling the same way you started, only a bit more inspired, a bit more happy.
I say inspiring, becoz I could identify myself as the main protagonist, and could empathise with him. In fact, I'm in a situation very much like him, and the way he approached it makes me feel-"If he can, why can't I?"

Final Verdict: Recommended, especially if you are a student.

1 comment:

PRAVEEN CHANDAR said...

hey nice review pal... if i'm gonna watch the movie.. it'll b for this review of urs.. :)