SPACE COWBOYS

THREE STARS – Thought-provoking

Achieving the goals of our lives is difficult.  It becomes even more difficult when our own arrogance and pride sabotage our efforts and when we are betrayed by those we trust to help us.  But if we could only be given a second chance, we believe we can make it, no matter how much later it is.

This belief, that it is never too late to reach our dreams, is the underlying theme of another film from the genre of old-people-still-have-what-it-takes:  “Space Cowboys.”

Produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, “Space Cowboys” centers on the lives of four ace Air Force officers who were to be the first astronauts in space when NASA took over the space program from the Air Force and preempted their plans.  Betrayed by their commanding officer who became the NASA chief, they bitterly left their dreams behind.  Now, forty-two years later, the aging aces are given a second chance.

The central figure of the film is Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood).  A brilliant engineer who developed guidance systems for the United States.  He is asked for his help when a Soviet communication satellite’s guidance system is failing and the satellite is falling from orbit.

For a variety of reasons, which are entangled in the intrigue of the tale, Corvin is the only engineer who can solve the problem.  When he realizes this fact, Corvin decides to blackmail NASA into letting him and his original team of astronauts take a shuttle and go into space to makes the necessary repairs and thus fulfill their dreams.

Though we seldom are afforded such second chances, Corvin and his team realize the providential nature of this turn of events and join together once more in their attempt to become “Space Cowboys.”

The message that it takes everyone working together is woven within the fabric of the film’s events.

The competition between Corvin and “Hawk” Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones) is one of the primary reasons they failed in their first attempts.  Having shunned each other for years, their willingness to help each other succeed in their mutual goal becomes increasingly clear as their unique abilities and dispositions create a dynamic ability to finally succeed.

The other two members of the team are “Tank” Sullivan (James Garner) who has become a Baptist minister and Jerry O’Nell (Donald Sutherland) who creates high-speed roller coasters.

Playing off such films as “The Right Stuff,” the team is called in the fictional headlines, “The Ripe Stuff” and creates a national excitement about space.

Much as John Glenn’s return to space in real life, the symbol of their return grabs the imagination.  Viewers are encouraged by this story line to think of the dreams of earlier life and consider if it is not too late to achieve our as well.

Though the film is an action film with excellent special effects, the human interactions of these four men, their adversary, Bob Gerson (James Cromwell), and the women who love them, create a bond of identification and caring for the characters by the viewers of the film.

Though the title of “Space Cowboys” suggests a spaghetti western, the film’s universal message of teamwork, commitment, perseverance and courage are values that can help any of us reach our goals at any age.