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Laramie Movie Scope:
Space Cowboys

Space geezers fly by seats of pants

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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August 8, 2000 -- "Space Cowboys" is a likable, but lazy movie about geezer space heroes who, while no longer young, still have the right stuff.

Clint Eastwood phones in his performance as Frank Corvin, a Chuck Yeager-like Air Force pilot who gets aced out of the space program by a chimp and Bob Gerson (James Cromwell of "L.A. Confidential") a back-stabbing bureaucrat. Forty years later, he gets a chance at revenge. A satellite with an old guidance system only he can fix has gone awry, threatening Russian-American relations. He uses his expertise as blackmail, insisting that NASA not only give him a ride on the shuttle, but his old friends as well.

His friends, the old Air Force "Team Daedalus," are, Hawk Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones of "Double Jeopardy"), Tank Sullivan, (James Garner of "Twilight") and Jerry O'Nell (Donald Sutherland of "The Puppet Masters"). These guys are up against a bunch of young hotshots, but you know who is going to win that contest.

The formulaic film has team Daedalus go through a month-long training run that is supposed to have them ready to operate the space shuttle, and there's a side story that has the Tommy Lee Jones character falling in love with a pretty young engineer played by Marcia Gay Harden. There are hints that the mission is not what the geezer astronauts have been told it is and of course it turns out there is a lot more to the Russian communications satellite than just communications.

The improbabilities keep piling up as the story staggers on until it reaches its totally ridiculous conclusion. It doesn't really matter, however. This is formula movie making. The idea is to give you four old underdogs to root for and it certainly delivers. Jones, Garner and Sutherland are quite good in their roles, while Eastwood is far from sharp, but adequate. These craggy old heroes have the right stuff to make an audience care about them. They don't need no stinking computers! They fly by the seat of their pants.

The set up of the formula is a little slow. We have the obligatory gathering of the team, with the obligatory stubbornness and old grudges that have to be overcome. There's the training sequences, the surprise problem (not really much of a surprise) and other formula set pieces. The production values are pretty good, however, with good-looking sets and special effects. Supporting actors include William Devane as mission controller Eugene Davis and Rade Serbedzija, who always seems to play a Russian.

The problem I had with this movie is that it seemed to have been put together a little lazily. It was a good concept, but it wasn't particularly well written or directed. In the early part of the movie it seemed to me that some lines of dialogue delivered by Eastwood should not have gotten in the film the way they were delivered. They needed at least another take. I did like the black-and-white sequences around the flight of one of the early "X" planes. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2000 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)