CLINT EASTWOOD’S SPACE COWBOYS — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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I’ve always been a big fan of Clint Eastwood’s Space Cowboys. Released in August of 2000, the film is a sincere and compelling tale of retired ex-test pilots who take the chance of a lifetime. It appears that an old Soviet satellite is in need of repair, and nobody knows how to handle business better than Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones, and James Garner. Sort of like Armageddon for the AARP audience, this refreshingly small-scale but still high-stakes scenario got a lot of comic mileage out of the collective ages of the co-stars, but still told a lean and effective story, with Ken Kaufman and Howard Klausner’s peppy screenplay giving each actor their moment to shine, and not wimping out at the finale. In fact, the final shot of this movie has continued to haunt me for the last 16 years; I’ve never forgotten it as it still chills me to the bone whenever I think about it. A great supporting cast including Loren Dean, Marcia Gay Harden, William DeVane, Courtney B. Vance, Rade Šerbedžija, and James Cromwell all did solid character work, while Jack N. Green’s stylishly composed cinematography never called overt attention to itself while still displaying visual gravitas and a smart use of the widescreen frame.

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This isn’t a game changer, but rather, a comfortably solid film, the sort of late summer programmer that was better than it had any right in being, which is mostly due to Eastwood’s classy sense of direction, and the amusing performances by all of the old-timers. There’s emotional pay-off, terrific action, and a genuine sense that everyone involved was having fun. The opening sequence, set in 1958, is a stunner, showing the test-piloting exploits of the guys when they were young hot shots, with the entire prologue captured in a unique shade of black and white which also gave off a cool blue-grey visual sheen; I always get totally engrossed in this film from its opening moments. Shot for an economical $60 million but never feeling skimpy at any moment, the film became a solid box office hit, taking in $90 million domestically and another $40 million overseas. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound Editing and carries a triumphant musical score courtesy of frequent Eastwood collaborator Lennie Niehaus. The film marks the feature film debut of Jon Hamm. Fly Me to the Moon POWER.

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