Tommy Lee Jones

S is for Space Cowboys (2000)

When an aging Russian satellite suffers a system failure that could set it on a collision course for Earth, retired engineer Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood) is called into help as his now outdated guidance system is what the satellite runs on. He blackmails his former boss Bob Gerson (James Cromwell) in order to get his old team back together to complete the mission, and soon Frank, pilot William “Hawk” Hawkings (Tommy Lee Jones), flight engineer Jerry O’Neill (Donald Sutherland) and navigator Tank Sullivan (James Garner) are all going through training at NASA to prove their fitness for the mission.

I love a good space movie, especially ones that focus on the technical aspects of space travel and have all the usual tropes with interesting characters in ground control as well as in space, office politics, and things not going to plan – Apollo 13 and The Martian are my favourite space films. Space Cowboys ticks all those boxes so I had a great time with this film.

The friendship between the old teammates is what really made Space Cowboys for me. So many of the scenes when they’re all together, just chatting, or messing around during their training were fun to watch. It all seemed so natural as they took the mick out of one another but also clearly cared about one another. Some of them hadn’t seen each other for years but the sign of a good friendship is being able to easily fall back into the old rhythms of a friendship like no time had passed at all.

The first two acts of Space Cowboys are Frank getting the team back together and them going through training together. There are the usual clichés of clashes between the old, would-be astronauts and the young, trained professionals but things never turn too nasty and as their training progresses you can see there’s a grudging respect between the two generations. The third act is the mission into space and naturally just about everything that could go wrong, does. There’s a bit of a farfetched reveal about the satellite but besides from that the mission in space is tense and action-packed.

As someone who grew up watching James Cromwell as the nice and gentle farmer in Babe, it’s been a weird experience watching the rest of his filmography as I get older, especially when he plays characters who aren’t that nice at all. Whenever he and Eastwood butt heads it’s fun to see but Cromwell’s character has such a shifty undertone to him it’s a bit disconcerting.

Have to mention the needle drop of *NSYNC’s Space Cowboy which was not a song I’d ever think would be in a Clint Eastwood movie but when the title works, it’d be a crime not to use it.

Overall Space Cowboys is a fun film with engaging characters. Sure, the main plot is saving a failing satellite but really it’s a film about friendship, loyalty, and trust and it has one of the most believable group of friends I’ve seen in film in a while. 4/5.

REVIEW: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

It’s 1941 and the world is at war. After being rejected multiple times for the US Army due to his size, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is chosen for a top-secret experiment where he is turned into a Super Soldier. With the allied forces by his side Steve leads the fight against Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) and the Nazi-backed organisation, HYDRA.

Having Captain America: The First Avenger set in the 1940’s leads to an almost old-fashioned vibe which is a nice change of pace for the superhero genre. Captain America as a character is all about “truth, justice and the American Way”, something in today’s time could be seen as both jingoistic and corny, but the filmmakers do a great job of having Steve Rogers being an inherently good person, while not hiding from Captain America’s potential cheesiness. The montage of Steve attempting to be a showman selling bonds to the song Star Spangled Man With A Plan perfectly shows this.

Much like how Robert Downey Jr. is born to play Tony Stark, it’s clear that Chris Evans is perfect as Steve Rogers. He is charming and sincere, and is every bit a leader while still feeling like the everyman who doesn’t like bullies.

Not only is Captain America: The First Avenger a good war film, the action is slick, and it blends the tragedy of war with heroics incredibly well, it’s also got a romance you fully invest in. Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is a caring yet capable woman who fights side by side with the Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and the US army. The chemistry between Atwell and Evans is tangible every time they’re on screen together. Another important relationship in Steve Rogers life is that he has with best friend James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes (Sebastian Stan), it’s a friendship that wil transcend the times and is a significant part of Steve’s character and motivation.

A key part of Captain America: The First Avenger is the characters. They all feel like real people, who talk and argue and care about one another. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), father of Tony Stark, makes and appearance and it’s clear where Tony gets a lot of his brains and showmanship from. Howard’s a fun character though it’s interesting to see a younger version of the man we’ve heard about in Iron Man 2, a man that was incredibly distant and didn’t care for his son.

One group of characters who do feel a bit short-changed are the Howling Commandos. ‘Dum Dum’ Dugan (Neal McDonough), Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi), Gabe Jones (Derek Luke), Falsworth (JJ Feild) and Dernier (Bruno Ricci) all deserve more than their given. The Howling Commandos along with Bucky Barnes and Captain America are a tight group of friends but you only get the barest hints of that in the film, with their missions being reduced to a montage.

Captain America: The First Avenger is full of charm, great characters and performances. It’s a solid, old-fashioned blockbuster that successfully combines action with heart. 4/5.

REVIEW: Jason Bourne (2016)

jason bourne movie posterWhen Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) comes to him with more information on his past and on what the CIA has been doing over the past few years, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) comes out of the shadows to uncover hidden truths about himself, his past and the agency he once worked for.

The action sequences in Jason Bourne are shot really well. There’s the typical shaky-cam you come to expect from the Bourne franchise but you can still follow what’s happening and the opening motorbike chase is thrilling and exciting. However, when it comes to the story that’s what drags Jason Bourne down.

Unfortunately, the general plot is nothing we haven’t already seen before. CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and analyst Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) are the main duo who are trying to take down Bourne in one way or another, and there’s also the Asset (Vincent Cassel) who is the one out in the field chasing down Bourne. While all three give good performances, there’s nothing that stands out about what they are doing. We’ve seen the CIA trying to kill Bourne many times before, just like we’ve seen him looking into his past before. How many times can you have him not remember something about himself until someone gives him a clue and then he goes and punches and shoots people until he gets the truth?

Jason Bourne is a fast-paced film and the action never really stops. The final sequence in Las Vegas is extravagant but unlike previous car chases in the Bourne films, it feels more like an over the top Fast and Furious sequence rather than a more grounded one suited to the world of Bourne.

In my mind, The Bourne Ultimatum ended perfectly and, while the action sequences are still good, Jason Bourne adds nothing new to the character or to the franchise. 2/5.