Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Clint Eastwood|
|Music by||Lennie Niehaus|
|Cinematography||Jack N. Green|
|Edited by||Joel Cox|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$128.9 million|
Space Cowboys is a 2000 American adventure drama film directed and produced by Clint Eastwood. It stars Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner as four older "ex-test pilots" who are sent into space to repair an old Soviet satellite.
In 1958, two U.S. Air Force pilots and aspiring astronauts, William "Hawk" Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones) and Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood), are testing a modified Bell X-2 when Hawk decides to break a height record. The plane stalls and they are forced to eject, narrowly missing a Boeing B-50 Superfortress flying with navigator "Tank" Sullivan (James Garner). On the ground, Frank punches Hawk, but their fight is broken up by flight engineer Jerry O'Neill (Donald Sutherland). Their boss, Bob Gerson (James Cromwell), chastises Hawk, before taking them to a press conference, where he announces that the newly created NASA, rather than the USAF, will be conducting space flight tests.
In the present day, NASA is tasked to prevent a Soviet communications satellite, IKON, from decaying out of orbit and crashing to Earth. The satellite's archaic electronics are based on those of Skylab that Frank had developed. Bob, now a project manager at NASA, requests Frank's help. Frank still despises Bob, but agrees provided he has the help of "Team Daedalus" including Hawk, Tank, and Jerry. Bob plans to have younger astronauts shadow the four, so as to replace them before launch. When the press learn of Frank's team, the Vice President convinces Bob that they must be part of the mission for publicity. The old and young teams soon work together, with the older astronauts showing off skills learned without the aid of a computer.
The Space Shuttle Daedalus finds the satellite. It is not a communication satellite but in fact houses six nuclear missiles, relics from the Cold War and a violation of the Outer Space Treaty. Frank discovers that the satellite control system was stolen from Bob's files by the KGB, and that the satellite's computers will launch the missiles at predetermined targets if it falls out of orbit. NASA and the crew plan to use the payload-assist rockets to push the satellite into deep space. However, one of the younger astronauts, Ethan Glance (Loren Dean), acting under Bob's original orders, tries to put the satellite into stable orbit himself. He sets off a chain reaction: the satellite collides with the shuttle, damaging most of the shuttle's computer systems and engines, destroying the solar panels on the satellite, and sending it into a faster decaying orbit, while Ethan is knocked out and dragged along with the satellite.
While Tank and Jerry tend to the other young astronaut Roger Hines (Courtney B. Vance), who suffered a concussion on the impact, Frank and Hawk space walk to the satellite in time to activate a booster rocket and slow the orbit's decay. As they see to Ethan, they realize that the only option is to have someone ride on the satellite as they fire the missiles' engines so that it escapes into deep space. Hawk, who was recently widowed and who has eight months to live from pancreatic cancer, sacrifices himself, hoping that he will be able to land on the Moon to fulfill his life's dream.
Frank, Tank, and Jerry now plan to bring the shuttle down over water since landing it would be difficult, but the shuttle comes in at too fast a speed. After safely bailing out Ethan and Roger, Tank and Jerry stay with Frank regardless of the risk. Frank recalls a maneuver Hawk had used before, purposely stalling the shuttle to drop its speed quickly and allowing him to land the shuttle safely.
- Clint Eastwood as Colonel Francis D. "Frank" Corvin, Ph.D., USAF (Ret.)
- Toby Stephens as young Frank
- Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel William "Hawk" Hawkins, USAF (Ret.)
- Eli Craig as young Hawk
- Donald Sutherland as Captain Jerry O'Neill, USAF (Ret.)
- John Mallory Asher as young Jerry
- James Garner as Captain the Reverend "Tank" Sullivan, USAF (Ret.)
- Matt McColm as young Tank
- Marcia Gay Harden as Sara Holland
- William Devane as Flight Director Eugene "Gene" Davis
- Loren Dean as Ethan Glance
- Courtney B. Vance as Roger Hines
- James Cromwell as Bob Gerson
- Billie Worley as young Bob
- Rade Šerbedžija as General Vostov
- Barbara Babcock as Barbara Corvin
- Blair Brown as Dr. Anne Caruthers
- Jay Leno as himself
- Jon Hamm as Young pilot
- Chris Wylde as Jason the birthday boy
- Anne Stedman as Girlfriend
Principal photography started in July 1999 and lasted three months. Scenes were filmed on location at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Interior shots of the flight simulator, shuttle, and mission control were filmed on sets at Warner Bros.
The 1958 portrayals of the characters are filmed with younger actors dubbed by their older counterparts.
Space Cowboys was well received by critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 78% based on reviews from 119 critics, with an average rating of 6.72/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "While the plot is overly clichéd, the superb acting by the stars (especially the tense interactions between Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones) and the spectacular special effects make this a movie worth seeing." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3 out of 4 and wrote: "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."
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- "Space Cowboys (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
- "Space Cowboys Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
- Ebert, Roger (August 4, 2000). "Space Cowboys". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
- "2001 | Oscars.org". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 31, 2020.