The Rocket (2014)
Critic Consensus: A feel-good success crafted with care, Kim Mordaunt's story of two young kids in Laos is a heartfelt audience pleaser while remaining sensitive toward its subjects.
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Critic Reviews for The Rocket
In some ways, it feels like a throwback to many '80s teen movies, where everything comes down to a competition at the end, and the hero will finally get the chance to prove his worth.
It follows a search for personal salvation while painting a portrait of Laotian life that's both revealing and relatable.
A powerful, deeply moving drama about a young boy who comes to terms with the tragedies that have befallen his family by creating a thing of beauty - a gorgeous, high-flying rocket emitting triumphant bursts of color - out of refuse left by the war.
Mordaunt doesn't always succeed at balancing the sentimental, the political and the ethnographic, but at its strongest the story is a seamless melding of history's dark undertow and a child's indefatigable optimism.
If the Laotians in the film appear to be superstitious simpletons, it's not because they actually are - it's because Mr. Mordaunt made them so.
Audience Reviews for The Rocket
After White Reindeer, I had the pleasure of attending a sold out showing for this film. And wow, am I impressed. It's a rather simplistic story, and I mean simplistic, not cliche. Those are not synonyms, well at least to me. First off, the acting is amongst some of the best I've seen at CIFF. I have no idea how old Sitthiphon Disamoe is, but he gives a killing performance. One that was better, to me, than some Hollywood actors have done in their career (not going to name names, but *cough cough* Ashton Kutcher). If you want an idea on what the feel of the movie is like, see "Journey From the Fall." Although "The Rocket" is Australian made, it is set in the Southeast Asian country of Laos, and the film itself has the feel of a Southeast Asian film. The shots are beautiful to look at, sometimes resembling the ones that everybody loved in Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line." To what level is the film predictable ? Only the ending. Which is a very satisfying ending, in the sense that there was no other way to end the film. The characters are loveable, especially the two lead child actors.
More about the cinematography, Kim Mordaunt does a great job of establishing them. There are a few long shots that are a bit blurry, but other than that, she does a great job of creating mood by simply choosing the right cinematography options. A clear example for people who have seen the film is the bat cave scene, wherein the woman professes Ahlo is a bad spirit. The close up, and focus on the shots was phenomenal, really capturing the raw emotion from both the actors. Along with that, the choice of lighting was great. In the last scene, I'm not sure whether or not it was intended, but there is a clear example of pathetic fallacy. I can't say anymore about the ending, or I may ruin the film people who haven't seen it. The script is magnificent, and hilarious. Mordaunt, who also wrote the film, does an excellent job in capturing the traditions and diligence in which they pursue their native traditions. The film switches from tears to laughs, without having the audience question the scenes they're laughing at.
Overall, the film is really about an underdog, but rather than taking to the basketball court, or the football field, the director takes us into the mountains of Laos. It's a classic twist to a rather overdone story. The director is able to capture the cultural background of the Laos people, and make a realistic situation out of it. Jordan Hoffman of Film.com stated "If you aren't moved by the "The Rocket" your heart is defective," and I completely agree with that. Rather, I would change "your heart is defective" to "you have no heart." It is a compassionate movie for the protagonist, but by no means is it a cliche story. One of the best movies I saw at CIFF by far, this and "Blue is the Warmest Color."
"Feel-good" is not really the way I would describe this dramatic film of impoverished people in the far-off Eastern country of Laos. It's a film filled with hardships, loss and the desperation of simply wanting to belong. Yes, it was a very good film but the only real 'feel-good' moment comes from its finale. Overall, a solid film but far too heavy for what I would consider feel-good.
As much as people disparage the Red states, the level of superstition and mysticism left in the world is at times mind-boggling, as evidenced through the culture depicted. Made me want to slap the grandmother every time she derided her grandson for such stupid reasons. Otherwise, an uplifting movie (besides the death and abject poverty). Well done film from a child's perspective. After watching the trials the boys went through in October Sky, I find the rocket scenes a little unbelievable (that the boy got it right the first time, without any metallurgy or precise chemical recipes for the rocket fuel), but it's possible to overlook such matters.
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