Space Cowboys

Space Cowboys

name = Space Cowboys

caption = "Space Cowboys" movie poster
writer = Ken Kaufman
Howard Klausner
starring = Clint Eastwood
Tommy Lee Jones
Donald Sutherland
James Garner
director = Clint Eastwood
producer = Clint Eastwood
Andrew Lazar
music = Clint Eastwood
Lennie Niehaus
cinematography = Jack N. Green
distributor = Warner Bros.
released = August 4, 2000
runtime = 130 min.
language = English
budget = $65,000,000
amg_id = 1:196444
imdb_id = 0186566

"Space Cowboys" is a 2000 comedy/science fiction/adventure by Clint Eastwood and starring Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner, released by Warner Bros., about four aged ex-astronauts who are sent into space to repair an old Soviet satellite. The original music score was composed by Eastwood and Lennie Niehaus.


*Clint Eastwood .... Colonel Frank Corvin, Ph.D., USAF (Ret.)
*Tommy Lee Jones .... Colonel William 'Hawk' Hawkins, USAF (Ret.)
*Donald Sutherland .... Captain Jerry O'Neill, USAF (Ret.)
*James Garner .... Captain, Reverend 'Tank' Sullivan, USAF (Ret.)
*James Cromwell .... Bob Gerson
*Marcia Gay Harden .... Sara Holland
*William Devane .... Eugene 'Gene' Davis
*Loren Dean .... Ethan Glance
*Courtney B. Vance .... Roger Hines
*Rade Šerbedžija .... General Vostow
*Barbara Babcock .... Mrs. Barbara Corvin
*Blair Brown .... Dr. Anne Caruthers
*Jay Leno .... Himself
*Toby Stephens .... Young Frank Corvin in 1958
*Eli Craig (son of actress Sally Field) .... Young Hawk Hawkins in 1958
*John Mallory Asher .... Young Jerry O'Neill in 1958
*Matt McColm .... Young Tank Sullivan in 1958


The film received a moderately favorable review from Roger Ebert: “it's too secure within its traditional story structure to make much seem at risk—but with the structure come the traditional pleasures as well.” [ [ :: :: Reviews :: Space Cowboys (xhtml) ] ]

Plot summary

An obsolete Russian communications satellite is about to fall out of orbit, and NASA agrees to deal with it. The onboard systems are so archaic that nobody at NASA understands them, so they ask retired United States Air Force pilot and electrical engineer Dr. Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood), who designed the original guidance systems from which the satellite has been copied, to help them, despite the longstanding animosity between the engineer and project director Bob Gerson (James Cromwell) due to a past grievance. A flashback reveals that 40 years ago, Corvin's prospects as an astronaut were dashed with the formation of NASA, a civilian agency, for Corvin was replaced by a chimp.

Corvin insists that there is not enough time to train anybody; he proposes going himself, and he will not go without his old team, team Daedalus: structural engineer Jerry O'Neill (Donald Sutherland) who is a skirt-chasing roller coaster designer with Coke-bottle glasses, maniacal pilot-turned crop duster William 'Hawk' Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones), and former navigator 'Tank' Sullivan (James Garner) who is now a Baptist minister. With no choice, the director agrees. Gerson intends to string Corvin along until younger astronauts are up to speed on the system. But the press soon learns of the situation, and the four men become celebrities - even appearing on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. They become so popular that Gerson is forced to actually send them on the mission by the Vice President of the United States. During medical tests, Hawk is found to have terminal pancreatic cancer, and has only about eight months left to live. Due to the urgent nature of the mission and since he won't be impaired, he is considered as flightworthy and put on the mission.

The mission goes ahead with two crews, old and new. When they capture the satellite, they discover that it is not what they thought it was. Instead, it is a dangerous relic of the Cold War, armed with nuclear missiles (a fact the Russians did not reveal). The team also learns that the system the satellite uses was stolen by the KGB from Gerson's personal files. The team decides to use the payload assist rockets the (fictional) space shuttle "Daedalus" is carrying to push the satellite out of Earth orbit into deep space.

But then Ethan Glance (Loren Dean), one of the younger astronauts, follows Gerson's secret orders to try to move IKON into a stable orbit by himself. He connects the PAM rockets against Corvin's orders, accidentally activates the satellite, being incapacitated in the process. It collides with "Daedalus", causing extensive damage, and then prepares to launch its missiles. Roger Hines (Courtney B. Vance), the shuttle pilot, is seriously injured in the collision, leaving the four senior citizens to handle the crisis.

Corvin and Hawkins first deactivate the satellite. They then discover that there are not enough undamaged rockets to stabilize its now rapidly-deteriorating orbit. With time running out, they improvise, deciding to use the satellite's own motors to push it away. There's only one hitch: somebody has to go along to manually launch the missiles at the right time to ensure they do not enter an Earth-bound trajectory. Hawk makes the choice to complete the suicide run, reasoning that since he is the best pilot of the group and is dying anyway. He aims for the Moon, his lifelong ambition.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew on the "Daedalus" are not out of danger. The shuttle's computers are not responding and most of the propulsion systems are damaged, with the only functional one leaking fuel. NASA controllers decide to have the crew bring the shuttle as low as possible, then abandon ship, and let it crash into the Atlantic ocean. (See Space Shuttle abort modes). Corvin performs a de-orbit burn successfully as the space shuttle rides the atmosphere, gaining heat and causing tension. He makes it safely through and flies to Florida. He has Jerry safely discard the unconscious youngsters with parachutes. Tank refuses to leave him on the shuttle, and Jerry comes back after sending out the "youngsters" and takes the same position as 'Tank', who tells Corvin the current airspeed of the shuttle, since Corvin can't make him get out of the shuttle. He eventually performs a perfect landing at the Kennedy Space Center, despite all the damage that "Daedalus" suffered.

The movie ends with Corvin and his wife Barbara (Barbara Babcock) standing by a fountain at night, staring at the Moon, hoping that Hawk made it there. The camera then comes down to the Moon's surface, and zooms in on Hawk's body slouched against a rock in a sitting position, a trail of footprints leading from the crashed satellite, and the Earth reflected in his visor, as Frank Sinatra takes the movie out singing "Fly me to the moon".


* The space shuttle set was reused in 2005 for the British television series "Space Cadets". It was made slightly larger than the real shuttle in order to accommodate Donald Sutherland's and Clint Eastwood's height.


External links


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