Newest Review: ... Eastwood, James Garner, Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee-Jones the scope and even screen presence of the leads is immense. All are veteran... more
Dirty Harry Goes Into Orbit!
Space Cowboys (DVD)
Member Name: T4imbo3107
Space Cowboys (DVD)
Advantages: Fresh premise!
Disadvantages: Slow in the first 20 minutes!
In an age where age discrimination and political correctness are still unlikely buzzwords for the 21st Century, it comes as some refreshment that the main parts of the story are played by four gentlemen that don't need any prosthetic make up to play the part of retired astronauts and are able to get on with the main job of playing the part naturally. Released in 2000, Space Cowboys somehow missed my radar, so when the film was available on Blu-ray the opportunity to buy was taken, I had only seen the first 15 minutes when it was shown on TV and was put off watching it by the continuous breaks, and however getting this on Blu-ray raised the bar somewhat with regards to the viewing experience.
Space Cowboys tells the story of four men who are bought back into the fold of NASA as a satellite in orbit has begun to decay and requires to be repaired to stop a potential impact. The men were originally set to be the first men to go into Space, yet their project called Project Daedalus is cancelled by various people and government red tape as the men are replaced by a monkey. So forty two years later, the Russians ask for assistance to repair a failing satellite in orbit above the Earth the men from Project Daedalus get themselves seats on the next Shuttle mission to repair and restore the satellite in question. So to get the mission, the members of former Project Daedalus have to go through the whole training regime to get up to speed with astronaut training and learning to launch, fly and land the Shuttle.
Oh did I mention that not one of the four men are actually under 60? So the age factor does give the story an original twist, especially as the pensioners become media sensations and severely hack off the younger and ready astronauts who should've been on the shuttle.
With the main leads made up of Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee-Jones the scope and even screen presence of the leads is immense. All are veterans of both TV and cinema and having them together on-screen is a real force of nature, of course with Eastwood is the leader of the gang, there is no way that he is going to be lied too or deceived and with the other three all having equal roles the story takes place from the late 1950's to the present. None of the four are over the top and all are given there own independent scenes to get introduced the characters further. In fact none of the main four are a like and each has a different personality and due to this each have their own input into the story without detracting from each other. With Eastwood as director as well as star of the film, he is always there but never politely steals a scene, in fact it is well balanced overall and the film goes into some insight to show how the men have matured and why some dislike their methods, in fact the film tells each of the characters backgrounds in a meaningful way that gives a great scope of the rise from test pilots in rank to two star Air Force Generals, rollercoaster designers, aircraft engineers and with James Garner turning his back on the Air Force to become a Clergyman which comes over as a very funny shock moment when the four meet again although it is the character played by Tommy Lee Jones that has the darkest of secrets and wants to be part of the mission to finally make the trip into space, something that he was overlooked upon in the past. All four men are different, yet all four have great screen chemistry and this comes across in some scenes that appear to be improvised by Sutherland with Eastwood and Garner attempting to keep a straight face.
As you would expect with an Eastwood production the cast are backed up superbly by the co-stars and in this case Eastwood has managed to get William Devane, James Cromwell and Marcia Gay Harden who plays a NASA Doctor and becomes the love interest. In fact the women in the movie are all shown to be the equals and are utilised in such a manner that they are strong character of their own.
With a film that spans half a lifetime, the scenario of having four retired men come back to modern day NASA provides ample opportunity to show people out of place - analogue in a digital world. This is where the film excels as it seals with the issues of getting old such with the loss of hair, eye sight, flexibility and hearing. While its funny it's also good to see the younger and more agile members of the mission looking very concerned that the old guys seem to be muscling in on their show, this leads to a climatic scene where the issues comes to the surface. The age aspect is used as a stepping stone to the reason why the men have been bought out of retirement and that is to repair the satellite and even though I'm not going to say too much about this, it will be suffice to say that the film doesn't fail to deliver at all in the last third.
What I have always noticed about an Eastwood movie is that he doesn't necessarily tend to use many special effects, so here the addition of computer generated effects has been used in a subtle manner that allows the viewer to watch without being distracted at all by this and that, which detracts away from the story. Naturally the use is around the scenes set on the Space Shuttle and show a depth of reality given the fact that NASA were on-board with the production as advisors.
When you watch this film it can easily be classified as an action film with the circumstances of the plot and the story, there are many scenes that bring a smile to the face of the watcher, yet these are never over the top and immediately once this scene is complete, the next continues the story and moves it on further and for a film that lasts for 130 minutes in length it does build the tension from the early scenes set in black and white where the main leads are played by younger actors who are all believable in parts to the end where the film takes quite a dramatic turn in nature that changes the whole gravity of the film and then certain things that have happened before falls into place. This is a very clever technique that the writers have employed and one that certainly makes the film enjoyable to watch as this could have been the modern eqivalent of Moonraker!
The extras on the disc don't fail either and the diamond of this is a full length interview held by Jay Leno with the four main leads in character! In the film this is shown in an edited fashion, yet the extras contain the whole thing which was recorded as part of one of Leno's shows, so he has a full audience as well that just go nuts seeing the actors sitting there. The quality of the other extras included don't disappoint either as the documentaries give an awareness of the thought processes the production goes through to make the film and these go quite granular in depth to explain why this choice was made, an extremely entertaining and informative selection which I suspect Eastwood had some input as they highlight and explain clearly the role of the Director.
Overall the film is an excellent way to spend 130 minutes, this is nowhere near the sheer outlandish and "funny for the wrong reason" story as Armageddon, the story here is about ageism and four men overturning the beliefs that surround that area and serving their country one last time. Therefore for me the film works on many levels and thoroughly entertains in what it delivers and given the film is on Blu-ray, the picture is crisp with the scenes set in orbit come across as very clear and sharp. This is the complete package and comes fully loaded.
Summary: Eastwood delivers!