“A Million Miles Away”


Rotten Tomatoes (3/5), Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10), TMDB.com (3/5)

As uplifting tales of inspiration and motivation, movies about underdogs and beating the odds have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially when based on true stories. And this latest Amazon Prime Video offering is yet another offering to come out of that genre. Writer-director Alejandra Márquez Abella’s biopic about the life of José Hernández (Michael Peña), the first individual from a migrant farm worker background to go on to become a NASA astronaut, chronicles the impressive journey of a young Mexican-American from the agricultural fields of California to the flight deck of the Space Shuttle Discovery. The film provides a comprehensive view of this unlikely hero’s life from his often-disrupted childhood to his career as a Lawrence Livermore Laboratory engineer to his tenacious efforts at becoming a space-faring explorer, an uphill battle during which the odds were often stacked against him, both professionally and as a dutiful husband, father and son. It’s a moving story, the kind of picture that makes a good viewing choice for impressionable, wide-eyed grade school students with big dreams of their own. However, it’s also extremely formulaic in its storytelling approach, precisely hitting all of the requisite high and low points in just the right amounts and at just the right times. The downside in this is that it becomes predictable, at times blatantly obvious, even without knowing the particulars of the protagonist’s story, seriously undercutting any meaningful attempts at narrative originality. The picture is also a little on the long side; in its sincere attempt to be thorough, it sometimes incorporates so much detail that the story’s more incidental moments start to bog down the flow of the film. To its credit, this release has its delightful moments of unexpected humor and features fine performances by its capable cast, even if the material they’ve been given to work with at times seems a little lackluster, despite the underlying heroic nature of the story. “A Million Miles Away” is certainly a decent watch, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t feel like you’ve been rocketed into orbit by the picture’s end.