Space Cowboys Review

Clint Eastwood is not a director known for big-budget special effects filled films. Sure he’s made action films but only once did he delve into the high-tech with the dismal Firefox (the less said the better) in 1982. But 18 years later and he was ready to have another go. And this time he got it right.

The Film

Space Cowboys is like bringing together Dirty Harry, Maverick, Hawkeye and Deputy US Marshal Gerard once they’ve all reached pension age. Clint is, we are constantly informed, “not a team player” although from the 1958 footage it seems as though it is Jones’ character who fits the description. Sutherland is the engineering genius with a penchant for the ladies while Garner is the most grounded of the four as air-force officer turned preacher.
The film kicks off with the decision to send the first American into space. Our four heroes are lined up on the stage when a monkey replaces them to take the honours. Fast-forward 40-odd years and we find the four have gone their separate ways until a problem with a Russian satellite leaves the techies at NASA stumped. The reason? The operating system is the one designed by Clint all those years ago and he is the only one who can fix it. He demands that he is sent up personally and that the rest of his crew goes too or else NASA is on their own.

Say what you want about Clint being a self-indulgent director but there is no denying that he extracts great performances from his cast. Space Cowboys is no exception. Sutherland excels as the always horny O.A.P getting the laughs and the girls (indeed, a female friend of mine aged 22 told me while watching the film: you know he’s 70 but you would). Lee Jones, too, is excellent. His is the gruff, arrogant character always at loggerheads with Eastwood. However, there is also a very touching tender side that Lee Jones portrays subtly yet to great effect. Clint is his usual self - no bad thing when that is all you want him to be. Finally, Garner. He has the least to do of the four leads but he does it well. The four spark off of each other and genuinely seem to be having a ball.

The support (from Marcia Gay Harden, James Cromwell and William Devane) is also top notch. As are the special effects. The script is funny and the film features the best vomiting and roller coaster scenes I have ever seen. There is, however, one slight problem: pacing. For the most part Space Cowboys is excellently paced but once we get to the big twist, there is no real sense of dread or urgency. This is however a minor glitch in an otherwise excellent film which occurs very near to the end and so doesn’t interfere too much.

The Picture

A great film deserves a great disc. Thankfully Warners have delivered. Visually the disc is excellent. Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, the image is clear and crisp. The opening scenes (in black and white) are sharp with good black levels and shadowing. Later, colours are vibrant - the bright orange suits represented without a hint of bleeding.

The Sound

Sonically too the disc delivers. Right from the word go the sound is encompassing with the rears kicking in as a jet flies overhead. In fact, the rears are used very well throughout. In chapter 29 for example, listen as debris from the satellite is scattered. The launch makes good use of the subwoofer as does the re-entry. One problem with the sound was that some of the dialogue was a little hard to make out. It only happened occasionally but when a character on screen mutters or talks in a low voice we should be able to hear what they say.

The Extras

Looking at the extras list on the back of the box, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was another Warner release which offered little. You would, however, be wrong. The four featurettes total about 50 minutes and are very enjoyable. First up is Up Close with the Editor which is a 7-minute piece where Joel Cox talks us through some scenes. Interesting. Next is Tonight on Leno. This is the 10-minute interview (about one minute was used in the film) on Leno’s show where the cast went out in character and ad libbed the scene. Very good. We then have another 7-minute piece on the effects with ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Michael Owens and his colleagues. Again, interesting. And finally we have Back at the Ranch a 28-minute on location documentary which, despite a lot of clips, is very interesting and contains interviews with all the major players and some good behind the scenes footage. We also get an insight into Clint the director. Also present is the theatrical trailer and cast and crew biographies.

There are also some DVD-ROM features. They are a Space Shuttle Challenge and the original theatrical web site and other links. However, they are not on the disc but require connection to the internet.

Menus are fine - static pictures from the film inside circles representing the Earth and the moon, with the score playing over them. There are 36 chapter stops in all accessible from the non-animated scene selection pages.

Conclusion

In all this is a first rate disc. While it seems completely implausible just remember, John Glenn did exactly what the old guys do in this. I read a review in The DVD Forums that said that Space Cowboys was a “crap Armageddon”. In reality, it is what Armageddon should have been - funny, exciting, touching and, above all, fun.

Film
9 out of 10
Video
9 out of 10
Audio
9 out of 10
Extras
7 out of 10
Overall

9

out of 10

Last updated: 15/07/2018 05:18:43

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