Clint Eastwood directs himself in SPACE COWBOYS. Eastwood plays a former test pilot who, more than 40 years later, gets a chance to finally go into space. He won’t take it, however, unless he can surround himself with the only crew he trusts – a team of geriatric test pilots played by Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland.
SPACE COWBOYS is another entertaining, fairly exciting movie from Clint Eastwood, although it is not among his best. Although laced with lots of foul language to cover the sentiment in the story with a macho sheen, the movie’s tale of heroism and sacrifice has a symbolic Christian motif that gives it a mild Christian worldview. Regrettably, however, the foul language in the movie is enough to give it an extreme caution. Also, the movie makes no bones about the sexual interests of one of the team members. Despite this, SPACE COWBOYS has a haunting final shot that adds much depth to the movie’s moral theme of sacrifice. It also does great honor to all the men who gave their lives to help develop America’s space program. Their courage in the face of death enriches all our lives.
(C, B, Pa, LLL, V, N, A, D, M) Mild Christian worldview with moral & pagan elements; 75 obscenities, 7 strong profanities & 2 mild profanities, plus young man vomits during wild plane ride & a couple sexual references; mild action violence including two fistfights, crashes in outer space, two men injured during crashes, & rockets blast off; no sex, but a couple sexual references; upper & rear male nudity during medical examinations with one man not shy about being fully nude in front of woman doctor; alcohol use; smoking; and, miscellaneous immorality such as lying.
SPACE COWBOYS takes off where THE RIGHT STUFF began. In the spirit of the Chuck Yaeger character in that movie, SPACE COWBOYS tells what might have happened if a former test pilot like Yaeger would finally get a chance to travel into space.
In 1958, the members of Team Daedalus, a fictional group of top Air Force test pilots, are ready to serve their country as the first Americans in space. When NASA replaces the Air Force for outer atmospheric testing, it also pushes aside Team Daedalus in favor of a chimpanzee. Air Force bureaucrat Bob Gerson relishes telling the team the news, especially the team’s hotshot aviator, Frank Corvin.
Over 40 years later, Gerson, now a NASA bureaucrat, finds that he must rely on Corvin and his team when Russia’s decades-old communications satellite, the Ikon, suffers a systems failure. A Russian general insists that the failure will cause a total communications blackout in his country, leading to chaos. Gerson discovers that the old technology running the Ikon was designed by Dr. Corvin, a top-notch engineer played by Clint Eastwood, who also directed SPACE COWBOYS.
This is the chance of a lifetime for Corvin to finally go into space, but he won’t take it unless he can surround himself with the only crew he trusts – Team Daedalus. Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland play the three other members of Team Daedalus, Hawkins, O’Neil and Sullivan. The four men relish the chance to show their stuff. Seasoned veterans with an attitude, the team stretches the rules and strains the patience of their flight director, Gene Davis, played by William Devane in one of his best performances. They also test the patience of their younger astronaut compatriots.
After some problems, not the least of which is Corvin’s sneaky nemesis, Gerson, the team finally reaches space to fix the disabled Russian satellite. Once there, however, Corvin discovers some new wrinkles which put the whole mission in danger and may lead to World War III. Only one man’s sacrifice can save the team and the mission and ensure peace on earth.
SPACE COWBOYS is another entertaining piece of cinema from Clint Eastwood, but it may not carry the weight of some of his best movies. For example, the first half is somewhat unbelievable at times and suffers from some shallow characterization. It was enjoyable, however, seeing the older would-be astronauts, and the actors playing them, go through their paces. Also, the second half of the movie was fairly exciting, with lots a excellent special effects that did not overpower the story.
Although laced with lots of foul language to cover the story’s sentiment with a macho sheen, the movie’s tale of heroism and sacrifice has a symbolic Christian motif that’s enough to give it a mild Christian worldview. In fact, one of the members of Team Daedalus, Tank Sullivan, played by James Garner, has become a Baptist minister who leaves his small church to take the assignment in space. At the start of the mission, he utters a very brief prayer. At another important point, he gives a brief thanks to God.
Regrettably, however, the foul language in the movie is enough to give it an extreme caution. Also, the movie makes no bones about the sexual interests of another team member, Jerry O’Neil, played by Donald Sutherland. At one point, O’Neil makes a crude verbal reference to feminine sexuality. Thus, SPACE COWBOYS contains some rougher content than 1998’s DEEP IMPACT and ARMAGEDDON, which were among MOVIEGUIDE®’s Top Ten Films for Mature Audiences that year.
Despite this, SPACE COWBOYS has a haunting final shot that adds much depth to the movie’s moral theme of sacrifice. It also does great honor to all the men who gave their lives to help develop America’s space program. Their courage in the face of death enriches all our lives.
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