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Space Cowboys Reviews

Fhich four over-the-hill flyboys get the chance they missed 40 years earlier to go into space in this amiable shaggy dog story, which loses momentum after takeoff. Back in 1958, Air Force pilots Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood), "Hawk" Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones), Tank Sullivan (James Garner) and Jerry O'Neil (Donald Sutherland) were Team Daedalus, the best of the best. They looked like shoe-ins for the space program's first astronauts, but were elbowed out by Bob Gerson (James Cromwell), a conniving bureaucrat whose only priority was advancing his own career. Forty years later, Tank is a minister, Hawk gives prop-plane joyrides, Jerry designs roller coasters and Frank is retired and still seething about Gerson's treachery. And Gerson is a NASA bigwig with a problem: Ikon, an aging Russian telecommunications satellite, is about to drop out of the sky. NASA has promised assistance, but none of its youthful engineers can make heads or tails of Ikon's aging guidance system. Curiously, it's identical to the system Frank designed for NASA's Skylab, so Gerson reluctantly enlists his aid. Frank's condition: that he and the rest of Team Deadalus get their shot at space. The movie's first half is thoroughly charming, as the feisty old-timers train, squabble and butt heads with rule-bound whippersnappers young enough to be their grandkids. But the thriller subplot — which starts with the implication that Gerson may have leaked military technology to the Cold War-era Soviet Union, and kicks into high gear when the geezers board Ikon and discover that the situation isn't exactly as advertised — is implausible and carelessly developed. The whole thing feels like an afterthought, something to rustle up a little suspense and maybe fool some young people into thinking the movie's more like ARMAGEDDON than RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, but the performances are still pure pleasure.