Dir: Clint Eastwood. US. 2000. 129 mins.

Prod co: Malpaso, Mad Chance Productions, Warner Bros, Village Roadshow Pictures/Clipsal Films. Worldwide dist: Warner Bros/Village Roadshow. Exec prod: Tom Rooker. Prod: Clint Eastwood, Andrew Lazar. Scr: Ken Kaufman, Howard Klausner. DoP: Jack N Green. Prod des: Henry Bumstead. Ed: Joel Cox. Mus: Lennie Niehaus. Main cast: Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, James Cromwell, Marcia Gay Harden, William Devane, Loren Dean, Courtney B Vance, Rade Sherbedgia, Blair Brown.

After a couple of low-key box office performers, actor-director Clint Eastwood is back with a bang with this costly, high-profile adventure - a geriatric Top Gun in which he plays an unlikely astronaut. Blessed by Eastwood's trademark ease in front of and behind the camera, Space Cowboys overcomes the extreme implausibilities of plot and myriad cliches in the set-up to emerge as an entertaining and funny ride.

At the box office, it could go either way. Eastwood and his ageing pals Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner are a delight to watch but only adult audiences will appreciate them. Kids, unlikely to be overly impressed by the sci-fi elements, will be turned off by the senior citizen presence and opt for trashier releases like Coyote Ugly and Hollow Man opening against Space Cowboys in North America this weekend. Exactly how supportive the older audience will be is what will decide the film's fate around the world.

The film opens with a prologue set in 1958 in which we first encounter young air force pilot Frank Corvin and his daredevil buddy Hawk Hawkins. After crashing another aircraft, they are barred from taking part in the space programme by the bitter commanding officer Bob Gerson. At least forty years later, we move to 'present day'. Corvin (Eastwood), who has spent his subsequent career designing spacecraft, is called upon by Gerson and NASA to save a Russian satellite which uses his archaic designs and which is hurtling into earth's atmosphere.

But Corvin only agrees to help if he and his original flying team - Hawkins (Jones), Jerry O'Neill (Sutherland) and Tank Sullivan (James Garner) - get to man the space shuttle on the mission. Production values are flawless and the feisty humour of the four prickly principals is priceless.