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October Sky review

October Sky
PGcertificate PG
Running time: 103 minutes
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Dern, Chris Cooper, Sherman O'Dell, William Lee Scott, Chris Owen
Rating 7 out of 10
October Sky is the true-life story of West Virginian high school student Homer Hickham (Jake Gyllenhaal) who was inspired by the 1957 launch of Sputnik to build and launch his own rocket.

Joe Johnston's film follows Homer every step of the way: from building the missile as part of a science project, through the first (disastrous) attempts to launch it, to the tentative first flight in front of the inquisitive locals.

Fighting Homer all the way is his father (Chris Cooper), a fiercely proud supervisor at the local coal mine who expects his son to follow in his footsteps, and cannot understand for one minute the boy's fascination with something so fantastical as space travel. But Homer refuses to give up, often clashing with his father and practically tearing his family apart in the pursuit of his dream.

Newcomer Gyllenhaal is extraordinary in the pivotal role of Homer, more than holding his own against such seasoned talent as Cooper and Laura Dern, playing his inspirational teacher who pushes him to achieve his dream and contracts a life-threatening illness just as Homer's plans appear to be getting off the ground.

Gyllenhaal is a natural in front of the camera, seething with rage when his father continually throws spanners (nay the whole toolbox) in the works, and bursting with pride when he and his friends snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The other young cast members also turn in strong performances, each with his own particular hurdles to overcome during the film: bullying at school, an alcoholic and abusive father, and the death of a loved one. If the film does have any failings, it is the overly sentimental final ten minutes which are determined to pull the heartstrings as firmly, and as frequently as possible.

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