Space Cowboys
Review by Ross Anthony

In 1958 a team of four test pilots involuntarily surrendered their dream of flying in space to a lower primate named Mary-Ann. Forty years later, a satellite problem and a little blackmail give them the opportunity to finally realize that dream.

"Space Cowboys" is really two films. The first third is lighthearted in a "Blues Brothers" Space Cowboysrounding-up-the-members-of-the-old-band demeanor which flows nicely into the second third dedicated to training, prep and some more lighthearted fun. It's that last third that feels like another movie all together - perhaps "Mission to Mars." When I think back on "Space Cowboys" I like to selectively forget that last third, that way I can strongly recommend this picture. In fact, the first part is clearly an "A" grade flick, unfortunately the outer space gig pulls down the rating.

I guess you could say, "When this film finally gets off the ground, it's time to leave the theater." From the get go, the story teeters on believability, however Eastwood, Jones, Sutherland, and Garner make it easy to forgive and forget. Unfortunately, in space everyone can hear you make mistakes. Even without gravity, the progressions fall into the abyss of implausibility, the pace spirals out of control, and the story down on Earth demotes our villains into cartoony Boris and Natasha types. I was embarrassed for the film.

Whew, enough of the ugly. Let's focus on the bigger bulk of wonderfulness. This cast of aging classic actors does a classic job of acting. Sutherland, though third man from lead, is absolutely charming as the tender sweetheart, smiley and cute -- a strong contrast to a career full of intense roles. Tommy Lee, supplied with authentic dialogue, nails the southern good ol' boy bit. Garner is a tag along, but is nonetheless as likable as always. Clint is Clint; cocky, soft-spoken with a spark of fire in his eyes to back it up.

This out-dated team of yesterday's pilots must match performance requirements with the young polished team currently supplied by NASA. The spirited rivalry is laden with age ribbing in both directions.
Clint, "It's not my fault you can't understand what I'm showing you."
Young astronaut, "I've got two master's degrees from Yale!" Eastwood, "Well maybe you should ask for your money back."

Worrying if the thrust from the rocket launch will give them all cardiac arrests, Tommy Lee quips, "The US will be the first company to send four dead bodies into orbit."

Good lines like these pack the majority of the film. If "Rocketman" was a space pic for the young crowd, "Space Cowboys" is the version older folks will appreciate. That said, I enjoyed both, though "Cowboys" would have been better off without a blast off.

  • Space Cowboys. Copyright © 2000. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, William Devane, Loren Dean, Courntey B. Vance, James Cromwell, Marcia Gay Harden.
  • Directed by Clint Eastwood.
  • Written by Ken Kaufman & Howard Klausner.
  • Produced by Clint and Andrew Lazar at village Roadshow/Clipsal/Warner Bros.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:54:07 PDT