Coalwood, West Virgina, is a typical mining company town in 1957. For most of the malepopulation, the only future is a descent into the mines, with all the hardships and early death thatentails. Jake Gyllenhaal hopes for better, and he is inspired by the launch of Sputnik to build hisown rocket, a project which involves three of his friends, and is encouraged by teacher LauraDern. Against Gyllenhaal are the skepticism of the town, the difficulties of the project, and thetro…bled relationship with father Chris Cooper, who manages the mine.
What we have here is an example of the male tearjerker. It follows the expected arc: earlystruggles lead to hope, followed by second act defeat, all of this keyed to the relationshipbetween son and gruff-but-fundamentally-decent father. The film avoids descending intoobjectionable mush thanks to the realism of its setting, the strength of the performances(especially Cooper’s, who summons an emotional symphony out of what could easily have beena one-note character), and its unabashed sense of wonder in the flight of rockets.
Not a lot to choose from between the 5.1 and DTS tracks, but this is because they’re bothexcellent. The left-right separation is strong, as is the placement generally of the surround effects(this particularly true of the mine scenes). The music also sounds great, and there is no distortionon the dialogue.
A fine 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The image is sharp, colours and blacks arevery strong, and the flesh tones are accurate. There is no visible grain or edge enhancement,either. The film is a joy to look at, even when the dominant colours are different shades of coalgrey.
Instead of the usual filmmakers’ commentary, we have a track provided by Homer Hickam,on whose autobiography the film is based. While he was on-set and was involved with the movie,he also has much to say about the actual incidents. The result is a fascinating memoir. “AimingHigh: The Story of the Rocket Boys” is a half-hour documentary that has interviews with all therocket boys, supplementing the memories of that era. There is also the usual promotionalmaking-of featurette, as well as production notes and the trailer. The menu is basic.
A moving, funny and exciting film, that treads over familiar ground in expert fashion.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- “Aiming High: The Story of the Rocket Boys”
- Making-of Featurette
- Production Notes
- Theatrical Trailer