Film Commentary [9-6-00]
Geezers in Space- - Space Cowboys
Genre: Action/comedy/science fiction
Grade = B+

Spacecowboys - Gardner, Eastwood, Jones and Sutherland
Clint Eastwood stars and directs one this years three major films revolving around space travel. Eastwood is joined up with Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland, as former members of the 1958 Daedalus Team, a pre-Mercury Air Force pilot space-flight experimental team who have their project canceled when NASA is created and are replaced by a chimp as the first American in space. Fast forward 42 years. A seemingly harmless Russian communications satellite has broken down and will reenter earth's orbit in 35 days if it is not repaired. The problem is that the satellite is too big to be brought back to earth for repair by the Space Shuttle and its guidance system is identical to that of the 1970s Skylab as designed by Eastwood. The only way to stop the breakdown of the satellite and prevent the chaos that would result if Russia loses its only communication satellite is to have those who are experienced in this outdated technology go up in the Space Shuttle and fix it - the Daedalus team.

Time has taken its toll on the Daedalus team, all are now in their 70's. Eastwood is a retired space engineer, Jones is a crop-duster, Garner is a Baptist preacher and Sutherland is a roller-coaster designer. James Cromwell (Babe, L.A. Confidential) is the former Daedalus commander and now heads NASA. Eastwood blackmails Cromwell into agreeing to send the Daedalus team into space to repair the satellite. The film progresses through their training and eventual journey into space on the Space Shuttle

All in all, this was a surprisingly entertaining film that delivers what it promises, an action comedy. It will not receive any awards but is worth viewing solely for its entertainment value. The film includes many humorous episodes, many from Sutherland, who considers himself a lady killer (and a geriatric one at that) and especially his attempts to pass the vision test when he is practically blind. The main chemistry of the film is between Eastwood and Jones as their character's relationship evolves from despising one another into mutual respect. Jones manages to steal every scene that he is in and unfortunately Gardner is for the most part ignored throughout the film when he very well could have made a major contribution if he had only been given the chance. One thing that could have been further explored was the relationship between Eastwood and Cromwell, whom Eastwood blames for blasting his chance to go into space in the first place. Although we do get a taste, it needed further fleshing out and could have been particularly relevant to the film. William Devane provides a strong supporting role as Houston control commander.

Film sites include Johnson Space Center in Houston and I was suprised when they showed Eastwood and Cromwell in the lobby of a building that I had been in the week before at NASA's annual open house. On the downside is the tacked on love affair between Jones and a NASA engineer which rang hollow. Effective was the use of the actor's voices pasted onto the young actors representing the quad in 1958 (one of which was eerily similar to a young Eastwood). The film also possessed great sound engineering especially with the launch of the Shuttle and great space visual effects help to make the film come alive. All in all a much better film than Armageddon and light years ahead than Mission to Mars. Exciting space action comedy.

Cromwell and Eastwood in Johnson Space Center building lobby
Cromwell and Eastwood in Johnson Space Center building lobby

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