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Space Cowboys (2000)
Director: Clint Eastwood

review by Tony Lee

Clint Eastwood's Space Cowboys is a curiously romantic adventure with some good performances and yet, overall, it's uninspired, emotionally transparent and - sadly - utterly predictable.
   It's flat without being leaden, solid but not impressive. It certainly has one or two dramatic moments, though its general tone - which shifts jarringly from everyday realism to technological fantasy - reminded me of Eastwood's earlier Firefox, with a bit of Ron Howard's winningly authentic Apollo 13 thrown in for good measure. There's plenty of fine acting but not much action in the somewhat talky first part, then the show becomes a more visually oriented piece of cinema as the quartet of pensionable astronauts reach orbit in the space shuttle and attempt to fix a faulty Russian satellite. That's when the special effects cut in, bigtime.
   Unfortunately, that's just too little and too late. This is not Armageddon for pensioners, there's not much happening here. Although the film doesn't quite fall apart before the end, there's a certain distance that opens up between the actors and the space hardware once they blastoff. They all seemed more comfortable down on the ground playing with real NASA toys at the astronauts' training centre. I wasn't convinced these old pilots and boffins, played by Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, James Garner and Tommy Lee Jones truly believed they were above the Earth in the important climactic scenes - and if they didn't believe in this wish-upon-a-star fiction, then I couldn't either. Unlike the cast of Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuff, who all seemed far more committed to their (true life) roles than Eastwood's imaginary 'Team Daedalus', these geriatric guys are stubbornly unwilling to admit they're obsolete (because they were made redundant back in the late 1950s, when NASA took over the US space programme from the Air Force). They're not the trail-blazing pioneer rocket-jocks of those glory days, they're too-obviously just movie-star icons milking a one idea plot based on the high concept that anything politicians like former spaceman John Glenn can do, Hollywood's finest can do better.
   That's not to say Space Cowboys is a dead loss. It is likeable, I suppose, but it's not the least bit exciting, really. No, it's just like SpaceCamp for grownups.
previously published online, at the New Century of Cinema - Movies on Dowse
Space Cowboys
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