Movie Reviews: Space Cowboys




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    Warner Bros. (1 hr. 45 min.)
     Four aging former astronauts are called back to duty 40 years later to stop a soviet communication satellite from crashing into earth.
     Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and Courtney B. Vance
Bottom Line:


   Nobody but squinty-eyed Clint Eastwood could make us believe that the old coot and his buddies James Garner, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland could blast off into outer space, rescue a crippled Russian satellite, land the space shuttle and make the whole thing look credible.
OK. Sen. John Glen could.
   No one else.
   Directed by Eastwood, Space Cowboys is a fascinating film to watch, starting from its short 1958 prologue which is filmed in beautiful black and white. The film opens with four young Air Force test pilots code named Team Daedalus (Eastwood uses young actors who look uncannily like their older counterparts) who are picked to be the first men rocketed into outer space.
   However, the Air Force decides the first manned space mission is too risky, so they pick a monkey to go where "no man has gone before."
   The film cuts to present day and centers around Frank Corvin (Eastwood) whose been reluctantly called back to NASA by his old boss, Bob Gerson (James Cromwell) to help fix a wayward Soviet communications satellite with a 30-year-old guidance system he designed and that 21st century computer genuises can’t figure out.
   Corvin and Gerson have a mutual dislike for each other, because of the monkey business 40 years ago. Corvin figures Gerson owes him a flight in space. So Corvin, whose never been a team player, says the only way that he can save the satellite from its decaying orbit, is to reassemble his old flight team and fix the satellite on site.
   The only way that Gerson will let Team Daedalus fly again, is if they train side by side with younger experienced shuttle pilots played by Loren Dean and Courtney B. Vance.
   The usually lean Vance has put on some weight since we saw him in "The Preacher’s Wife," and is almost unrecognizable carrying a beefy 20 pound disguise and shaved head. Vance and Dean aren’t given much to do except to remind Team Daedalus how fossilized they are at every opportunity when the film calls for comic relief.
   Space Cowboys is a more affectionate movie than the usual Eastwood shoot ‘em up fare, as the "grumpy old men" go through the riggers of astronaut training in 30 days trying to get into shape.
   The fact that Eastwood embraces his age and the other actor’s is the strength of the film which adds a sense of sincere authenticity to the characters.
   Once in space, the film takes predictable twists and turns which sets up a sentimental ending, and the scary realization that the Soviet satellite is truly a dangerous relic of the Cold War.
Despite its plot holes, Space Cowboys’ simple characterizations and its warmth and humor towards aging makes its inconsistencies more than forgivable.


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