Space Cowboys/Brian W. Fairbanks-Writer/Paris Woman Journal

Space Cowboys
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, James Cromwell, Marcia Gay Harden, William Devane, Loren Dean, Courtney B. Vance
Screenplay: Ken Kaufman and Harold Klausner
Director: Clint Eastwood
(Warner Bros.)
*** out of *****
Opens in France on September 6, 2000

Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and Cary Grant each retained leading man status past the age of sixty, but an amusing quip or two was usually the only acknowledgment they made of their age as they continued to be paired with actresses several generations younger. The lighting director may have had to stretch his talents to make these stars appear younger, but Gable, Cooper, and Grant went about their business as though they were ageless. Clint Eastwood, on the other hand, has not only embraced his age but flaunted it. Since hitting the big 6-0 a decade ago, all but one of his roles (the photographer in The Bridges of Madison County) have emphasized the fact that he's not a young man anymore and may even be considered over the hill.

Space Cowboys, which he also produced and directed, continues the trend. This time around, he's Frank Corvin, an astronaut who missed his chance to be among the first Americans in space when NASA sent a monkey into orbit in place of his four man Team Daedelus. Ah, but now a satellite has broken down in space, and since Corvin designed the system and is the only man qualified to repair it, NASA comes calling on him to save the day. Corvin accepts on one condition: his old teammates must go with him.

The first half of Space Cowboys finds Corvin rounding up his old team. Hawk Hawkins (a comparatively youthful Tommy Lee Jones) is now a crop duster, Jerry O' Neil (Donald Sutherland) builds roller coasters, and Tank Sullivan (James Garner) is a Baptist preacher. Their advancing age is the dominant theme in their conversations. "Do you need those?" Corvin asks O' Neil about his thick glasses. "Only to read, and drive, and walk."

The age issue reaches its apex when the camera focuses on the naked behinds of the star quartet during a training session. Sagging pale flesh is unashamedly paraded before our eyes as if to defiantly "moon" a movie industry that likes its stars young and its senior citizens in supporting roles.

Once our geriatric heroes reach space, the movie becomes a thriller (there is more to their mission than either they or we originally realize). The special effects by Industrial Light and Magic are impressive, and Eastwood the director proves that an old dog can learn new tricks by handling the hardware as well as he does the humans. Among the humans, Jones, the only one of the astronauts given a love interest (Marcia Gay Harden), tends to steal the spotlight even away from Eastwood. However, it's Sutherland, as the former ladies man of the group, who steals the movie with a big loony grin that brings to mind his pre-stardom role as a dim-witted soldier in The Dirty Dozen. Garner is good as always, but he spends too much time in the background with little to do.

Scripted by Ken Kaufman and Harold Klausner, Space Cowboys was made with Eastwood's usual team of craftsmen (set designer Harry Bumstead, cinematographer Jack Green, editor Joel Cox, and composer Lennie Niehaus). Eastwood directs as he usually does, eschewing the rapid cutting and breakneck pace so popular with contemporary filmmakers in favor of a leisurely pace that is refreshing rather than dull.

Even though John Glenn returned to space two years ago, thereby giving Space Cowboys some credibility, Eastwood's space journey is never quite believable. It is entertaining, though. For an old timer who has already given us his share of classics, that is more than sufficient.

Brian W. Fairbanks
Entertainment Editor

Photo 2000 - Warner Bros. All rights Reserved

About the author

Originally published at Paris Woman Journal
2000 Paris Woman Journal

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