Eastwood in Space
Unlike many Hollywood stars that try to hide from their advancing years, Clint Eastwood seems to revel in it, using it as a tool for many of his characters. He accepts that he is getting older and although still expected to play strong heroic figures he manages to make these characters sympathetic to his advancing years rather than attempting to play younger than what is believable, just take a look at "Gran Torino" for a prime example. It is also the case with his role as Frank Corvin the tough talking ex pilot in the entertaining "Space Cowboys" a movie which not only does Eastwood appear in but also directs.
In "Space Cowboys" Clint Eastwood (True Crime) stars as Frank Corvin a former part of team Daedalus who were expected to be the first men to head off to space, except they were shunned when in 1958 NASA was formed. Now forty years later Corvin's old boss Bob Gerson (James Cromwell - The Green Mile) needs to get him back on board as a Russian Satellite has gone wrong and is heading for earth unless Frank will teach them how to repair it. Using the opportunity to get what he wants Frank blackmails his old boss into allowing him to reform team Daedalus and be part of the team to head off into space on the proviso that they all past the fitness levels expected, not an easy task for a bunch of old men and not the straight forward mission that Frank expected either.
Frankly the underlying storyline to "Space Cowboys" is not overly original, 4 guys who once worked together, not always in perfect harmony but achieved results, find themselves working together again. It poses the question as to whether with age past issues will have been forgotten or whether tempers still run high. Well of course they do and a lot of the charm when it comes to "Space Cowboys" is that the constant bickering and rivalry between the team members which when accompanied with the fact that these older gentleman are not as fit as they once were provides for a lot of humour, the medical scene is hilarious and unexpected. This is the key to why although not overly original the plot to "Space Cowboys" works, it pokes fun at getting old but also dismisses the common theme that when you do get older you become useless, which we all know is a fallacy.
The fact that much of the focus of "Space Cowboys" is on how these older guys get on the storyline surrounding the Russian satellite sort of pails into insignificance and honestly works purely as a vehicle to reunite the team. It does add meaning to the movie but could literally have been about anything and the movie would have still been good because "Space Cowboys" is all about the 4 old timers and the witty banter which goes on between them.
A major reason why "Space Cowboys" works and appeals to the audience is in the choice of the four old timers, Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland. Each of these stars are instantly recognizable, we've seen them all before and so we know what to expect from Garner's more cuddly, friendly characters to Sutherlands quirkier, oddball performances. This doesn't mean their performances are boring but makes "Space Cowboys" extremely easy to watch. But most significantly Eastwood shows his deft hand of balancing the cast and characters so the movie is never just about himself. Tommy Lee Jones as Hawk Hawkins gets to rival Eastwood's Frank Corvin for being the hero and as to who gets the girl, whilst Garner and Sutherland as Tank Sullivan and Jerry O'Neill respectively get to share the bulk of the one liners. The balance works perfectly allowing you to feel safe in the knowledge that each character has a specific role rather than just added padding. But it is also that there appears to be an amazing chemistry between these 4 actors and it makes me wonder whether the on screen camaraderie which is always present carried on after filming finished.
But whilst there is a lot about "Space Cowboys" which I feel is great there are elements which pull it down, most notably of these is its length. At over 2 hours it's far too long and there are various parts of the movie which feel a little dragged out, mainly during the build up to the team re-uniting. It just feels slightly over done and just by knocking the movie down by about 15% it would probably have played at a much better pace and length.
Adding to what brings it down is that the second half of the movie ends up becoming quite routine and plays less on the relationship of the old team and more on the task in hand, which although necessary loses much of the comic charm of the first half.
What this all boils down to is that criticisms apart "Space Cowboys" is a fun and effective movie which will achieve what it sets out to do, which is to entertain and make you smile. The performances from Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland are the reason why it works so well and the fact that each character acknowledges that they are getting older makes for some brilliant humorous moments.