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.
Long on atmosphere and less sentimental about poverty than "Beasts of the Southern Wild," the film carries a potent charge of authenticity.
Audience Reviews for The Rocket
Don't know why I keep saying this but, hopefully, this will be a short review. Damn good film here, probably not as deep as it was intended to be but a very good film about a child's optimism in the face of being told that, because of his being a twin, he brings bad luck upon his family. Unfortunately for Ahlo, the boy, it seems like he does bring his family bad luck everywhere they go. That's more him being an inquisitive and resourceful child and, of course, not that he actually brings them bad luck. During one particularly crazy moment, another one of Ahlo's mischievous deeds, forces the family, and his two new friends, to move away. During their trek, they pass through war-torn Laotian villages as Uncle Purple recounts his days as a soldier and the effects the war has had on Laotian citizens as a result. The film expertly melds various subjects like this without really sacrificing the film's heart. In fact, it's very much part of it. I like that the film can very much be enjoyed by art-house audiences, looking for a good story, and a mainstream audience through its crowd-pleasing ending. This isn't always a good balance to find, but this film definitely makes it work. The acting is definitely very good, particularly from the kids...it feels completely natural and organic. Thep Phongam, as Uncle Purple, is the highlight of the film. An entertaining and memorable character, but his back-story is definitely the most interesting of all the characters. This is a guy that's trying, through his obsession with James Brown, to hold on to his youth and he sees a bit of himself in Ahlo, as he hasn't been corrupted by the world like he was when he was Ahlo's age. It's not exactly subtle storytelling, but I think it works. The film tells a very good story. It's a story that's been told many times before, but it doesn't make it any less effective. It's not the definition of a must-see, but I would certainly give it an enthusiastic recommendation.
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."
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