Review: Cowboys & Aliens

Posted: July 29, 2011 in Film Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in a scene from Cowboys & AliensIf extraterrestrials do exist, there’s no reason to believe their explorations of our planet would only begin in the twentieth century. Thus, the melding of the western and alien sci-fi genres was inevitable. However, the quality of the picture could not be so easily predicted. Thankfully, an excellent cast and crew came together to make Cowboys & Aliens an enjoyable movie experience.

A man (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the desert alone with only a photograph and a strange metal bracelet. He doesn’t remember who he is or where he’s from. When he reaches a small mining town, he discovers his name is Jake Lonergan and he’s a wanted man. Meanwhile, Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) is trying to find out who destroyed his livestock. Though the two men are enemies, they’ll have to work together to rescue their kin and stop the invading force.

The film seamlessly unites the key components from both genres. First, we begin with the man with no name who becomes a hero and put him up against the cattle rustler who thinks he owns the town. Toss in a cowardly saloon owner (Sam Rockwell), a few tried-and-true lines such as “I don’t want any trouble,” and a hostile encounter with Aboriginals, and you have yourself a western. But to change it up, the characters must round up a posse to rescue their loved ones from demons (a.k.a. aliens) who have brought their advanced technology to Earth to complete an unknown mission and probably destroy civilization. Plus, what’s an alien invasion without some cow carcasses. In short, the cowboys bring guns to a laser fight.

The aliens are a nasty species of intelligent goons with some gross bits of anatomy. Audiences are not given more than a glimpse of the creatures until about halfway through the picture and they’re not exactly what you’d expect – particularly since we haven’t seen anything like them before. The aliens’ technology is pretty cool and keeps their encounters with the humans fast-paced and usually off the ground.

Casting Indiana Jones (Ford) and James Bond (Craig) in the same picture was a stroke of genius. It would have been even better if they shared the screen more often. Instead, Craig’s character spends most of his time with Olivia Wilde, building a bond that in some ways surpasses a romantic relationship. Craig is solid, appearing comfortable bloody, flying through the air (for the first and last time) or kicking alien butt. Ford is exceptional as the gruff, man’s man who slowly reveals a caring heart without ever really breaking his tough exterior. In addition, Rockwell’s vulnerable husband willing to overcome his passive personality to rescue his wife is noteworthy.

Director Jon Favreau brings the excitement he induced in Iron Man to Cowboys & Aliens, delivering a well paced action picture set in the Wild West.

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