October Sky 1999 / Jake Gyllenhaal is compelling in his breakthrough role as a child who dared to shoot for the stars in this cheesy but stirring film


October Sky doesn’t tread new ground—in fact, you’ll be forgiven for rolling your eyes at a couple of cliches, including the classic “Those are your dreams, dad, not mine!” moments—but it’s so unassuming and well-made that it’s hard not to get drawn in by its many charms. There’s Gyllenhaal’s breakthrough performance for one, and the small town coming together to help each other out for another. Perhaps because the film is based on Homer Hickman’s true story, it also feels more specific and lived in than most period pieces. And it smartly avoids villainizing young Hickam’s adversaries so that they feel more real and nuanced, as opposed to the other far-fetched parts of the film. Sure, the overuse of sweeping music can feel cloying at times, but stellar performances across the board and confident direction overall make it a heartwarming, inspiring winner.

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