A Million Miles Away Movie Review: Michael Pe?a Drives This Feel-Good But Vanilla Biopic About An Ordinary Man’s Dream To Join NASA
The Amazon film is based on the true-life story of NASA flight engineer José Hernández who rose from humble beginnings and realized his dream of going into space. Michael Pe?a’s earnest performance is the heart of this cheer-filled biopic.
Amazon's latest release A Million Miles Away reminds you that it's never too late to dream. The film tells the story of José Hernández (Michael Pe?a) who became the first migrant farmworker to go to space as a flight engineer. Directed by Alejandra Márquez Abella, the English film encapsulates José long and hard struggle to get into The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) after 11 failed attempts. The heartwarming film follows his humble roots, strong connections with his family and above all, his determination that one day he would get to see the stars up close.
The biopic sets up José as a family guy from its first scene. Even as a young child, he helps out his parents as they pick out fruits and vegetables in the blistering heat of California's farmlands. But his dreams of being an astronaut must wait, as real life intervenes. With a job as an engineer, José embarks on life's regular milestones - buying a car, falling in love, and starting a family.
Eventually, he and his wife discuss the elephant in the room - the pile of rejection letters from NASA. José sets up a few goals for himself and shapes up to become a candidate that they might be interested in. Of course, the film has a happy outcome as José is finally accepted after he goes in person to apply. But even after joining NASA, José has some obstacles to overcome.
A Million Miles Away also has an India connect as Sarayu Blue plays astronaut Kalpana Chawla. She becomes a mentor and inspiration to José. Chawla was one of the seven crew members who perished in the Space Shuttle Columbia after it disintegrated during its re-entry into Earth in 2003. The incident greatly affects José in the film.
A Million Miles Away: Acting
Pe?a, known for his role in the Ant-Man films, leads the biopic as the good-natured and hard-working José. He delivers on both the comedic and more dramatic sections of the film, as the frustrations of almost making his dream build up over the years. Rosa Salazar as his supportive wife Adela has good chemistry with Pe?a as they weather several storms in their marriage.
Blue as Chawla has a nice moment with Pe?a's José as she discusses her experience of going into space. Knowing what eventually, the scene is also a little bittersweet. Garret Dillahunt also stands out as his gruff NASA senior. Juan Pablo Monterrubio as the younger version of José has a good likeness to Pe?a and is quite effective as the migrant child prodigy who gets noticed by his teacher.
A Million Miles Away: Critique
However, the conflicts in A Million Miles Away are quite straightforward. As we already know José eventually goes to space, his issues are quickly resolved within a scene or two. The film sticks to its feel-good message of never giving up on your dreams and doesn't push for more. For instance, José experienced racism as he started out as an engineer, but the portions are played out as a comedy. It doesn't investigate the more realistic parts of his family's experience as immigrants.
A Million Miles Away ends with footage of the real Hernández in space and shows the real people behind the story. If you are looking for a simple, sweet story, A Million Miles Away is quite inspirational.