out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
Review by MrBrown
3 stars out of 4
To a certain extent, Joe Johnston's fact-based film is every bit the piece
of manipulation its advertising suggests. In 1957, after seeing the Soviet
satellite Sputnik traverse the October sky (we have a title!), young Homer
Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a group of fairly nondescript friends (with
the exception of ubergeek Quentin, played by Chris Owen) is inspired to
take up rocket science. The problem is, he's just a kid in a small West
Virginia coal mining town (aptly named Coalwood), and his father (Chris
Cooper), who runs the mine, wants nothing more than for Homer to follow the
family and town tradition of mining.
Lewis Colick's script goes through familiar paces: Homer runs into a
series of obstacles in pursuing his dream, but he keeps at it, egged on by
a kindhearted teacher (Laura Dern) and others. But as manipulative as the
film is whenever the proceedings threaten to degenerate into treacle,
Johnston pulls back; as such, the unforced and honest power of the emotion
ever so quietly sneaks up on you by film's end. This understatement and
sensitivity extends to the actors, especially Gyllenhaal, one of the rare
young newcomers who actually displays some real promise.
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