Cowboys & Aliens



By Gary 'Six-shooter" Murray


Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde


Written by Damon Lindelof, Alan Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby


Directed by Jon Favreau


Running time 1 hr 58 min


MPAA Rating PG-13


Selig Film Rating Matinee


Since the beginning of film there have been cowboy pictures.  One of the first successful cowboy films was The Great Train Robbery.  Today few are made.  Since the beginning of film there have been science fiction films.  One of the first successful science fiction films was From the Earth to the Moon.  Today many are made.  So it almost makes some sense to combine the two and we get Cowboys & Aliens.


Based on a graphic novel, the film opens with a stranger (Daniel Craig) who has no idea of who he is or where he is from.  He’s barefoot, with a cut on his side and a strange bracelet on his wrist.   Almost instantly, a group of men try to capture him and the stranger shows off some massive survival skills.


He heads to the nearest town Absolution.  He has a run in with a young man and bests him, causing the arrest of the young man.  The young man is the son of Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford).  Right after that, the sheriff discovers that the stranger is Jake Lonergan, a wanted criminal.  The sheriff arrests Jake.


Just as the sheriff begins taking his prisoners to federal custody, aliens attack.  They rope into the vehicles some of the townsfolk, including Dolarhyde’s son and the saloon keeper’s wife.  The bracelet on Jake’s arm starts showing signs of movement when the bad guys attack.  When he points the bracelet at the menacing spaceship, a beam comes from the bracelet and destroys the craft.  The only person not surprised by this is Ella (Olivia Wilde) our mysterious woman.


Soon the men folk decide they must track down the weird being that took their people.  Along the way, they meet up with Jake’s gang and the local Indians.  Eventually, the groups must band together and fight for freedom, kicking alien booty Western-style.


The weird thing about this is that the movie probably would have been more interesting without the aliens.  A story of a man without any memory finding out that he is a hunted outlaw and trying to figure out his place in the world would make a very interesting Western flick. 

The acting in Cowboys & Aliens is just top notch.  Harrison Ford is the perfect America actor though he has done almost no Westerns.  Here is looks regal on horseback, commanding the attention of the audience.  This is a good portrayal for a living legend.  Daniel Craig is also perfect in the role.  The new James Bond plays Clint Eastwood from the Spaghetti Westerns of a few decades ago.  Olivia Wilde does an impressive job in an underwritten role as the mysterious woman on the trail of the aliens.  The young lady holds her own against some heavy acting talent.


The problem with Cowboys & Aliens falls squarely on the shoulders of director Jon Favreau and the gaggle of writers.  The man who made Iron-man work doesn’t find the right beat with this work and never gives the film an even flow.  The film is chunky, going from scene to scene without a steady stream of story.  He has all the tools to make a great motion picture but just copies shots from other westerns.  The cinematic homage run far and deep, from The Searchers to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  It takes a certain John Ford touch to make a ‘horses and hats’ flick and Favreau never finds that touch. 


On the plus side, the special effects are just impressive.  The aliens are CGI and mechanical effect miracles.  When the cowboys finally fight the aliens, the blending of horse stunts and special effects is seamless.


Cowboys & Aliens is a very entertaining motion picture, but it is not in the grand tradition of the Western nor of the science fiction flick.  As a hybrid, it is more of an okay night at the movies than a Gunfight at the Okay Corral.   


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