Plot: What’s it about?
Clint in space. You knew that eventually it would have to happen. Clint Eastwood is directing his 22nd movie and starring in his 42nd; and there’s not many actors (if anybody) who can top that statistic. Eastwood has helmed a Best Picture with “Unforgiven” and while all of his movies don’t have the style that a Scorcese or Coppola might have, they each have their own unique taste and blend of Clint’s vision. Recent movies about space like Tom Hanks’ “Apollo 13” and also Hanks’ “From the Earth to the Moon” show us how much adversity that the space program has had to overcome. We see from movies like “The Right Stuff” how NASA was formed and the rigorous regiment that the astronauts have to go through just to be considered to be allowed to fly into space. Space Cowboys concentrates on a group of four members of Team Datalys. Set back in the day before NASA, Team Datalys was noting more than four hot shot Air Force pilots who had a dream of going into outer space. After they crash yet another plane, they are told that their mission is accomplished and a monkey named Mary Ann is the first “American” to be launched into space. So who wants to see a movie about four old guys trying to act more than half their age, anyway? As inaccurate as some parts of this story are, a lot of people…that’s who.
After the team has gone their separate ways, we catch up with them some forty years later. Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood in yet another role where his name is “Frank”) was the engineer of the bunch. Not only a pilot, but he designed a guidance system for NASA that, at that time, was very furutistic. Now his guidance system is found on board a Russian satellite that is slowly falling out of it’s orbit. No, it’s not Armageddon, but close. Upon hearing the news that NASA needs his help, he shuns them off and decides that the only way that they’ll help is if he can get his old team back together to go up in space and fix it. William “Hawk” Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones) has had his differences with Frank, they haven’t spoken in years and now Hawk makes a living by scaring the tar out of unsuspecting people by doing unresposible stunt flying in cropdusters for money. What a life. Jerry O’Neill is now a structural engineer who advises pepole on their roller coasters among other things. Aside from his age, he doesn’t let that get in the way of his womanizing abilities. Jerry, the unquestioned “Ladies Man” of the bunch is a part that’s perfect for Donald Sutherland. Lastly we have Tank Sullivan (James Garner). Tank is now a Baptist minister, but judging from what little we see of his sermon, an engineer is not someone who can quote scripture and be very entertaining. So now the whole team is back and ready to go back up into space. But what is it that they’re doing, exactly?
As technology has been constantly improved, Frank’s guidance system that is now on board a Russian satellite pre dates all existing technology. The experts at NASA are all stumped, as reading the diagrams might as well be reading ancient Greek. The only way that these four old men are going into space is if two of the current astronauts can come with. What is held back is what’s so special about the satellite to begin with. Why don’t they just retrieve it like any other satellite? Why don’t they just let it fall down to Earth where it will burn up in the atmosphere? The Russian General Vostow isn’t giving out much information, but it’s quite clear that the guys need to go through training and get up into space and salvage this satellite. We know that the guys will make it up into space (as we see from the film’s trailer), but as always, getting there is half the fun. Yeah, the average age of the cast is in the 60’s, but these four actors are so fun to watch that we forget how old they really are. Let’s just say that what they find in space isn’t exactly what they were expecting. If you’re a fan of Eastwood or any of the other actors, or a fan of space movies, then this is your cup of tea. It’s fun, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously either. Have fun..they did.
Video: How does it look?
The 2.35:1 anamorphic image is, for the most part, very good. With it being a “space” film, there are a lot of stock photography shots (shuttle taking off, etc…) but they all look great. I saw a few specs here and there which did surprise me as this was a new movie, and new to DVD as well. Still, the black levels were consistent throughout (and there are a lot of shots with black in them), fleshtones seemed natural, even with the amount of makeup that these old men had on them! Edge enhancement is minimal and all I can say is that this image does look darn good. While it’s not a perfect transfer, it’s another great-looking image from Warner. Good job.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is one of the better ones that I’ve heard in a while. Certain scenes use the surround speakers, which gives you more of the feeling that you’re “in” the movie (and that’s the point, right)? The opening scene in which Hawk and Frank are in a spin makes use of the speakers to give the appearance of a 360 degree field of sound. Several other scenes make use of this very same thing, including some scenes on a roller coaster and several in space (particularly with the jet suits and propulsion that they use). Dialogue is clean and well centered and is consistent throughout the movie. Not much else can be said here other than the fact that this is one good soundtrack.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Space Cowboys was delayed a bit from the “normal” time it took to come from the theaters to DVD. In doing this we might assume that this was to incorporate some extra features into the disc. You would be right in this assumption. While I would have liked to see a bit more in the feature department (commentary Clint…commentary), this has some very interesting and very entertaining features. Aside from the trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen and some cast and crew bios, we are presented with 4 behind the scenes documentaries. First off is “Up Close with the Editor” in which we meet editor Joel Cox and he runs us through the basics of what it takes to do what it is he does. It’s interesting, though I wouldn’t call it a documentary. Next is an extended version of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Leno has played this part–himself in many movies and this is just a longer cut that what was in the movie. Next is “The Effects” which is just that, we see a seven minute of what the rough effects look like and what the final product is. Interesting, but longer is better when it comes to supplemental material. Finally, there is a segment entitled “Back at the Ranch: A Look Behind the Scenes”. This is a chat with some of the folks who worked on the movie and while interesting, it doesn’t seem to satisfy. Also included are some DVD ROM supplements which are sure to please all as well. Overall, Space Cowboys could use some more supplemental material, but it could have less as well. I was pleased just to have the movie and you should be too, if this is your cup of tea that is.