"NASA is still interested in space," blurted George W Bush, adding to his already
burgeoning legacy of unquotable quotes. What else would it be interested in? Movies
on space, for one thing. Before you venture to think of an educational movie on
space, think of Armageddon, Contact and what not. Add Space Cowboys to that. These
are just a few of the movies that NASA lends its advice, and even premises, to.
Even if you don't see anything wrong with the policy, there is something definitely wrong with the movies themselves. Oil riggers, mechanics and geriatrics board space shuttles and rockets and save the world, when the engineers are made to cry over the big bucks and the proverbial midnight oil they spent and burnt to get there. Thank goodness, it's only in the movies.
The Russians approach the Americans with a petition to save their communications satellite, whose guiding system has gone awry and which is headed back home. NASA official Gerson (Cromwell) is in charge, but on finding that there is a flaw with the obsolete guiding system, he has to turn to his nemesis Frank (Eastwood), who designed it. The two go back a long way. In 1958, when NASA replaced the Air Force in outer atmospheric testing, Frank's team Daedalus was given the cold shoulder and a monkey was sent to space instead.
Frank wants to do things his own way even now, as he insists on going up there himself with team Daedalus. Blackmailing is all right, but these 60-somethings, Frank, Hawk (Lee Jones), Jerry (Sutherland) and Tank (Garner), have to pass all the existing tests to qualify, which they do. On going up there, Frank finds nuclear warheads instead of a satellite. Oh, the poor Russians! Hollywood just can't leave them alone, can it? Anyway, the thing has to salvaged still, and a lot of things go wrong before they go right. Hawk can't make it back, as he sacrifices his life to put the thing back into orbit.
That is another all-American story of heroism, courage and bullshit. After Abosolute Power and now this, Clint Eastwood should be looking for a vacation. Not that there is anything irreparably wrong with his directorial skills - it's just that the script is beyond redemption. It ails from everything Hollywood - self-important one-liners, facile heroism, laughable premise, half-hearted sentimentality, Russia bashing and so on. Take the song 'Fly Me to The Moon' that plays as Hawk is shown lying dead on the moon. Is that supposed to make us cry?
It is laughable when the four strut down to the base, even as we wonder which
one's going to trip first. Tommy Lee Jones looks the least ridiculous, even though
he falls for Marcia Gay who plays another NASA employee. Eastwood himself carries
a smug expression that speaks for the movie.