Pink Fire Pointer Space Cowboys ► 3.5 / 5 (Eastwood's Hollywood)

Space Cowboys ► 3.5 / 5 (Eastwood's Hollywood)

.. the not so right stuff
[your rating for the movie]

  It is fate, I guess, that first led me to see the marvelous 'The Right Stuff', before this Eastwood's idea of what may have become of those brash, uber-confident, womanizing, cowboy-pilots. This movie takes off right where The Right Stuff lets go. The latter was an 'experimental-epic'. A newness in the genre of science, drama and even humor. Semi-sadly, Eastwood's venture is a semi-experimental, non-epic. There is much of a muchness and the same of a sameness. Much of it is the lack of scientific verity and content. The context, though, is intriguing. Factually, the United States sent a chimp to space before men. There must been some incredulity and frustration for those pilots dreaming to be the first American in space. This movie starts with a fiction behind the incident, based on some history.

Feelin' lucky punk?
  The fiction is that the boss, Bob Gerson (James Cromwell) doesn't like the attitude and bravura of the pilots, Hawk Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones) and Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood). He heads a team Daedalus, which has these two and a couple more, Tank Sullivan (James Garner) and Jerry O'Neill (Donald Sutherland). He upstages their space-career by ending all military/air-force involvement with space-race and closing the Daedalus. In reality, this was handed over to a 'civilian' agency - NASA, and many military personnel, esp. pilots, went on to work there as engineers, administrators and astronauts. We later see Bob in an administrative capacity. No such luck for these guys as they finish their career entirely in the corps (think Chuck Yeager).

Toby ~ the young Clint
  This lays the setup for another one. Now, we find these cow-boys have become cow-grandads and Clint is wanted by NASA to help them fix a satellite, a Russian one to boot. There's a logical macguffin as to why only he can do that job. Conveniently for him, it requires space-walk and astronaut-ing. He demands from his ex-boss Bob, who is now managing this affair, that the good ol' Daedalus must be brought in. Ofcourse, he agrees or else the setup for the setup would have no purpose in the movie. The good ol' team is back in place and training at NASA to be astronauts, which leads to some humorous situations and then some. Launched into space they find more details about the weird nature of the macguffin job and the Russian satellite. It's a sinister twist and, well, anyone who loved Bond's Golden Eye could have made quite a good guess here, I suppose.

  I want to specially mention Toby Stephens (Die Another Day, Mangal Pandey) as the young Clint Eastwood, who not only looks uncannily like his younger version but gets his mannerisms and expressions to a T. Would have loved to see a bit more of him. Ingeniously, for his voice, Clint dubs as his younger self, and so do the other three, which completes the illusion.

    Coming back to the problem I have with the film - the spacewalking and shuttle sequences, esp. the latter. There is a beautiful sequence whence, whilst space-walking, the astronauts 'fall' over the continents in orbit and the shot captures them to be seemingly hovering over the earth. Otherwise, the magic of the space journey is destroyed for anyone who's even a little familiar with how they work, esp. after viewing a landmark movie like the Apollo 13.

Imagine me up there..
  There is an especially painful scene wherein we see the old geezers extinguishing a fire inside the shuttle with a good ol' extinguisher as if in a barbecue. Fire is at it's worst in a zero-gravity space environment. It spreads over all surfaces, as a 360 degree spherical burst, since it cannot burn 'up' when there's no 'down' in space. The geriatric subjects also potter about as if in a barn with apparently no regard to a zero-gravity environment. The only way I, personally, was able to sit through them all were due to the good and expected performances by these seasoned actors. A high school student can tear those space sequences to pieces with the science he learns. There are some NASA consultants mentioned in the credits at the end and I wonder if they cringed seeing these. They have sinned by omission. Nevertheless, it's not all a lost cause, and I can only wonder what a beaut this movie could have turned out to be if they got those effects or science right considering the good acting and plot, which is usually the casualty in most movies.

We can hardly run and dammit if you strap us on rocket..
  I researched a bit after the movie and found that Clint didn't want to use the 'vomit comet' that was offered by NASA to shoot zero-gravity sequences. He, thoughtfully, feared the ol' cowboys kicking the bucket before he could film a bucket full of rolls. Nevertheless, it shows in those scenes and it disappointed me greatly. When I saw as a young kid, I imagined the 'Apollo 13' crew to either have gone to a space station to film those amazing scenes inside the spacecraft or perhaps all brilliantly computer-generated. It was an immense surprise, although logical, that these were filmed inside an airplane that free-falls towards the earth from a high altitude. Clint could have tried the vfx route at the least. This was well before his now Spielberg-ian days and the Dreamworks backing, and maybe there were some budgetary constraints. One only has to see the beginning of 'Hereafter' and fully understand the technical quality Steven brings to Clint's films.

Sara Holland: I have never met a kid who didn't dream of being an astronaut when he grew up.
Col. William 'Hawk' Hawkins: Did you ever meet a kid who didn't grow up?
  Anyhow, this movie isn't about the vfx or the brilliant space journeys but all about the heart. It's a salute to the magnificent 'The Right Stuff'. We see a paper headline in the mid of the film teasing the team Daedalus as the 'Ripe stuff'. Being ripe as it may be, it's strength lies in the fact that this is a Clint's creation and it's his team. They get the job done and in style. The script doesn't turn manipulative despite it's contrived and feel-good ending. The whole film reaches out with kindness and humor as only our grandpas can provide. It's a compliment, which this endeavor deserves fairly. Maybe this would've been better on the big screen than catching it on the dvd.

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