Space Cowboys


Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by:Howard Klausner
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, James Cromwell, Loren Dean, Donald Sutherland
Released: October 5, 2000
Grade: B+

Clint Eastwood is back in the director’s chair for Space Cowboys and he’s had no trouble assembling a stellar cast.  It’s the story of four guys known as “Team Dateless” who in 1958 were to become the first Americans in space.  However, after a long running feud with NASA head Bob Gurson (Cromwell), they were taken off the mission, replaced by a monkey and never flew again.

Some forty years later, NASA has a problem.  A Russian satellite has developed a small glitch and will fall to Earth in 35 days.  Should this happen, Russian communications will be thrown into chaos and so the U.S. has stepped in to fix the problem to help increase their relationship with the Russians.  It so happens that the technology on the satellite is primitive and the only man capable of understanding its technics is Frank Corvin (Eastwood), the former leader of Team Dateless.

So we find ourselves in an interesting situation.  Gurson, who is still chief at NASA, has to call upon the guy he screwed 40 years ago to come save the day.  Frank says he’ll do it but on one condition - if all of Team Dateless gets to go up in the shuttle.  Gurson gives him an ultimatum - they can go up but only if they pass the same physical and mental examinations set for all astronauts.  And so, the training begins...

I have seen better storylines than that offered by Space Cowboys.  We all know how things are going to pan out and the twists thrown at you are predictable.  At the initial NASA meeting, two items are discussed - (1) how a Russian satellite has American technology aboard, and (2) what is actually on board the satellite?  Neither question is answered at the time, which makes it painfully obvious that the answers will be given to us later, but if you connect the dots, you’ll know already.

What makes Space Cowboys such entertaining value is the awesome cast.  The same script with a weaker cast would have not have worked and it’s the class of all these “elderly” stars that give the film its draw.  It’s unfair to single out any character because they’re all so good.  Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones have some dynamite dialogue.  Donald Sutherland has put on a lot of weight for the role and is the funniest of the team.  James Cromwell has the tough job of playing the villain and is surprisingly effective.  My favourite had to be William Devane with his laid back portrayal of NASA mission director Eugene Davis.

Sure it’s popcorn stuff mixed with a dash of sentimentality but Space Cowboys has plenty going for it.  It’s not breakthrough material but it is certainly above average when compared against the current crop of Summer blockbusters.