The Rocket (2013)
Featurette-Making Of-11 short subsections
Trailer-Reality, Adieu Berthe
|Year Of Production||2013|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Kim Mordaunt|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The Rocket begins with a birth, or rather two, in a village in Northern Laos. One baby is still-born, but the superstition of the Lao tribe is that when twins are born, one is blessed, the other cursed, and both are put to death. The mother hides the second birth from everyone except the baby’s grandmother and keeps the boy she names Ahlo. But is he the blessed or cursed one?
Ten years later the hill village where Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe) lives with his father Toma (Sumrit Warin), mother Mali (Alice Keohavong) and grandmother Taitok (Bunsri Yindi) is due to be flooded by a new dam and all the villagers are forced to move to a new location. During the move Mali is killed in an accident and this, together with the forced removal of the villagers from their homes, causes Taitok to reveal that Ahlo is a twin and cursed. Matters do not improve in the new location, where the housing promised by the dam’s developers has not been built and the dislocated families are forced to live in squalor on poor land.
In the camp Ahlo meets Kia (Loungnam Kaosainam), a young girl his own age who is looking after her uncle who is known as Purple (Thep Phongam) for the purple suit he always wears. Purple is an ex-soldier and alcoholic with a fixation for the music of James Brown. Like Ahlo, Purple and Kia are outcasts and a bond forms between them against the wishes of Toma. But trouble seems to follow Ahlo and after an incident his family, plus Kia and Purple, are forced to leave the camp and flee into the countryside. When they hear of the village which conducts a Rocket Festival with the cash prize for the most successful rocket, Ahlo is determined to build a rocket and enter the competition to prove, once and for all, that he is not cursed.
Laos was bombed extensively by the US during the Vietnam War resulting in Laos becoming the most bombed country in the world, and many unexploded bombs still litter the countryside. Writer / director of The Rocket is Australian Kim Mordaunt, who first travelled to Laos in the mid-2000s to make the documentary Bomb Harvest (2007). Bomb Harvest depicts the work of bomb disposal teams in Laos, and some of the same themes about the legacy of the undeclared war resurface in The Rocket, especially in the character of the ex-soldier Purple (who we learn had been a child soldier fighting for the Americans) and the dangerous unexploded ordinance that litters the land which still kills and maims villagers and children.
That may make it sound as though The Rocket is a depressing film; in reality it is anything but! In fact The Rocket is a beautiful, life affirming film and something quite special. It is sweet and funny, the hill and jungle landscapes of Laos and Thailand are stunningly photographed by cinematographer Andrew Commis (The Slap (2011)), the music of Caitlin Yeo is compelling and the acting of the entire cast is impressive; Loungnam Kaosainam and Thep Phongam are really good, while Sitthiphon Disamoe is charming, natural and compelling to watch with his sad eyes and his cheeky grin.
The Rocket was nominated for 12 AACTA awards, but mostly lost out to Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gassby, winning only for Best Original Screenplay. The film did however win two prizes at the Berlin International Film Festival, including the Crystal Bear.
Put simply The Rocket is a wonderful and entertaining film. The Rocket is a simple story and one is never in much doubt about where the film will go in the end, but that does not lessen the smile one has when the end credits roll.
The packaging for The Rocket indicates that the film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This is incorrect: the film is in the correct original ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
Photographed old style on film, The Rocket looks spectacular. Detail is good with the dirt and marks on faces clear and sharp. The colours of the hills, jungle, rivers and fields of Laos are wonderful with deep and vibrant greens, blues and browns. There are times when one could pause the film just to look at the landscapes – and you could take a still and hang it on your wall. Blacks are solid, and if occasionally the shadow detail is indistinct it is only fleeting. Brightness and contrast are consistent.
The print shows occasional motion blur but there are no other artefacts or marks.
There English subtitles are burnt in. They are in a clear white font and contained no spelling or grammatical errors.
Audio is a Lao Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps.
Dialogue is clear and I guess easy to understand if you speak Lao. The surrounds were not overused but did add jungle noises, crowd ambience and music. The subwoofer added bass to the hum of machinery, the boom of explosions and rockets and to the music.
The score by Caitlin Yeo utilising strings, percussion and Asian instruments effectively added to the mood of the film and was well represented in the mix.
Lip synchronisation seemed off occasionally but never seriously.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are a range of extras listed on the DVD packaging which are mainly short sections of an interview with director Kim Mordaunt, with film footage and additional input by some of the cast (subtitled). The sections on the individual actors mostly look at their casting and the character. The sections are:
On start-up there were trailers for Reality (2:16) and Adieu Berthe (1:19). They cannot be selected from the menu.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
There is not currently a Region 1 US release of The Rocket. The Region 2 UK version is due for release in early June 2014; extras are listed on Amazon as the UK Theatrical Trailer and an audio commentary by director Kim Mordaunt. Judging from his input in the extras, this would certainly be worthwhile, so if that listing is correct it is a pity we did not get it in Region 4. For now at least, Region 4 wins.
The Rocket is a wonderful film, sad, funny, sweet, moving and life affirming. It looks spectacular and Sitthiphon Disamoe is a revelation. Highly recommended.
Note: The film is rated M for “Mature themes and nudity” but the only nudity is during the birth sequence at the beginning.
The video is excellent, the audio is good. The extras are reasonable.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|