Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens



Films opening this weekend:
Cowboys & Aliens - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade; Elmwood, Transit, Galleria, Quaker, Hollywood Regals; Flix; Transit Drive-In
Crazy, Stupid, Love. - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade; Elmwood, Transit, Galleria, Quaker, Hollywood Regals; Flix - REVIEW
In the Name of Love - Eastern Hills Dipson
The Smurfs - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade; McKinley Mall Dipson; Elmwood, Transit, Galleria, Hollywood Regals; Flix; Transit Drive-In - REVIEW

Despite the crowded writers’ room for this one, I’m going to give the credit to creator Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. One could argue we’ve had enough comic book adaptations, but sometimes a unique vision exists amongst the derivatives. Cowboys & Aliens is one such. You'd think the Wild West wouldn't stand a chance against high-powered lasers and flying machines. You'd be wrong.

What do you do to even the playing field? You put an alien tech weapon onto the wrist of an amnesiac badass and throw him into the fray. Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) is a cowboy with a capital C; pain a mere inconvenience, the quest for answers a necessity, not a choice. When he dispatches with the three hillbillies threatening to snatch him up for reward money, it is only the beginning. The sweat and dirt forever caked into his pores are the least of his worries.



Lonergan runs into trouble in a small beat-up town, thanks to Woodrow (Harrison Ford), an ex-Colonel in the Civil War and current cattle rancher, and Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine). In shackles and about to be transported to Federal holding, Jake sees his first alien attack through the bars of a police wagon. The metallic bracelet at his hand lights up and pulsates. Here, the divisions of good and bad blur together into one of human solidarity, and this ragtag bunch of cowboys may have a fighting chance.

Director Jon Favreau then ushers these characters through a journey of redemption and heroism, infusing his constantly improved skills in this adventurous and humorous Western, put to page by Orci, Kurtzman, Lindelof, Fergus, and Ostby—summer blockbuster regulars, all. The dusty deserts of the West are themselves a vibrant character. There is no Air Force to swoop down with atomic bombs, no Marine Corps trained in technological warfare. All humanity has at its disposal to prevent an alien invasion is a washed up old man—Harrison Ford is fantastic as both a hardened warrior and a compassionate father—and a criminal slowly remembering his past.



Our heroes have handguns, shotguns, knives, and a whole lot of old-fashioned moxie—nothing more. "Alien" may not even be a word in their vocabulary—though extraterrestrials aren’t the only enemy lying in wait along their path. Jake’s old crew, angry and under new leadership still travels through the open spaces, as do the last of the Indians manifest destiny has spared. Nonetheless, allegiances and friendships are formed, and the absence of law is put aside for teamwork.

Cowboys & Aliens is foremost a western. The pace is deliberate and the speech and aesthetic are straight out of the mid-1800s, just before the huge gold rush. There is a sticky, filthy sheen that’s inherent to the era, the actors all performing with strong-jawed determination, smiles reserved for the young and the weak. If not for the soaring UFOs in the sky, you’d be quick to forget the second half of the title. This isn’t the wild, exhilarating ride most might hope for by the trailer, but it is an intelligently well-crafted piece of original storytelling, an epic David and Goliath tale if ever there was one. Steer clear of spoilers for full impact.

Cowboys & Aliens 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

photography:
[1] (L to R) HARRISON FORD as the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde and DANIEL CRAIG as a stranger with no memory of his past in an event film for summer 2011 that crosses the classic Western with the alien-invasion movie in a blazingly original way: "Cowboys & Aliens". Photo Credit: Timothy White/Universal Studios and DreamWorks II Distribution Co. LLC Universal Studios and DreamWorks II Distribution Co. LLC
[2] OLIVIA WILDE as the elusive traveler Ella in an event film for summer 2011 that crosses the classic Western with the alien-invasion movie in a blazingly original way: "Cowboys & Aliens". Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal/Universal Studios and DreamWorks II Distribution Co. LLC Universal Studios and DreamWorks II Distribution Co. LLC

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