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Space Cowboys

"Space Cowboys" on DVD

Ageless Space Epic

If you can get by plot holes and scientific inaccuracies large enough through which you could fly a space shuttle, this Clint Eastwood film is entertaining enough.

This reviewer, however, couldn't get past the scientific gaffes and ended up playing "The Right Stuff" again afterward just to wash the stain off his big screen.

Space Cowboys is the tale of four has been jet jockeys who finally get the chance to live their dream of travelling into space.

Clint Eastwood is a retired engineer who's brought back to NASA to help find a way to prevent a Russian satellite from crashing back to earth as its orbit decays. He uses the opportunity to blackmail NASA into letting him reassemble his old team to ride the space shuttle to orbit to fix the satellite.

The team is Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner. Each is a ruggedly individual individual in his own right and they make a good ensemble.

So far as the plot is concerned, it's all pretty predictable stuff, but we have to admit that it was nice to see the old farts showing up the young bucks for a change. The message is that it doesn't matter how much schooling you have, experience matters most, and that's a message that isn't seen much in the movies, TV or other media these days.

It's too bad the writer didn't see fit to have the script fact checked. While science fiction regularly breaks or extrapolates from established rules, good science fiction doesn't throw the laws of celestial mechanics out the window just for the sake of the story. In this movie, however, the rule book is torn up. How else can one explain a booster that doesn't have enough energy to put the satellite into geosynchonous orbit, yet can send it to the moon instead? Has the writer never heard of escape velocity, or stopped to ask a real scientist if it's true that once you halfway to the moon its gravity takes over and pulls you toward it - regardless of the fact that the moon is much smaller and has a much smaller gravity well than the earth?

The writers could have crafted a fine story without repealing the laws of physics, and they'd have ended up with a more believable, and therefore better, story.

Anyway, we guess we're not supposed to think about such things.

The performances, as might be expected, are all first rate, as are the production values and Industrial Light and Magic's special effects.

The DVD is in anamorphic widescreen, enhanced for 16x9 TV's, and with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Picture and sound quality are very good, though we thought the audio volume was a tad low.

There are plenty of extras, including four documentaries (well, one of them's a fake Tonight Show bit), and a slew of DVD ROM features (including a Space Shuttle Challenge that lets you control your own mission).

The bottom line? Forget logic and science and enjoy the film anyway.

Space Cowboys, from Warner Home Video
130 min. widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, William Devane, James Cromwell
Written by Ken Kaufman & Howard Klausner, Produced and Directed by Clint Eastwood.


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Updated May 13, 2006