Cowboys & Aliens (Rated PG-13)
Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Directed by Jon Favreau
Plot: Based on a 2006 graphic novel released by Platinum Studios, the Wild West of 1873 gets a whole lot wilder when an alien civilization targets Earth and only a band of cowboys stands in their way.
Let’s talk pedigree…Producers include Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer. Writers include Damon Lindelhoff (Lost, Star Trek) and Robert Orci (Fringe, Star Trek). It is directed by Jon Favreau (Elf, Iron Man 1 & 2), and it stars Indiana Jones and James Bond (Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig). Oh yeah, and in case you didn’t guess it from the title, it has cowboys AND aliens in it. What more could a fanboy ask for?
I was worried about this one primarily because I had let my expectations get fairly high. And honestly, this has not been a good year for high expectations. But you know what? For as bizarre as the premise may sound, Cowboys & Aliens works.
Jake Lonergan wakes up in the middle of the desert with no memory and a weird metal bracelet on his arm. Making his way into a nearby town, he finds himself on the wrong side of the law (he’s a wanted criminal) and on the wrong side of local cattle baron, Woodrow Dolarhyde, after a run-in with his son. The sheriff wants to take Lonergan in for trial; Dolarhyde (who runs the town) wants to handle it himself. Soon it’s all a moot point as flying ships descend upon the town and start kidnapping citizens. Everyone is powerless to stop it until the bracelet on Lonergans arm lights up, fires at the ship and takes it down. Their differences temporarily forgotten, the remaining men set out to find their kidnapped friends and family and stop the “demons” that are plaguing their town.
I was surprised this one wasn’t in 3D, but it was nice to just watch the movie. I’m hoping we reach the point where not every movie feels like it has to be in 3D. From the beginning of the movie, it has the look and feel of a western. If you didn’t know the title, the aliens suddenly attacking would have been a total shock. The special effects are very well done. The aliens are CGI, as are the space ships, but they feel organic to the environment. My one complaint was the way the aliens abducted their victims; they are essentially lassoed and hauled away. While I realize this fit in with the western theme, one assumes a group of aliens able to make it across the galaxies to Earth would be a little more advanced.
What makes the movie work and rise above its silly concept (because, let’s face it, it is a silly idea) is the phenomenal work by its actors. Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig are outstanding as always. Their performances make this stand out from the usual summer blockbuster. Ford is a gruff and violent man. He deals with those who cross him violently, but he has a soft spot and a sense of honor that humanizes him. Craig channels a young Clint Eastwood as he tries to reconcile the man he was with the man he wants to be. Olivia Wilde is absolutely stunning. She gives a solid performance as Elle, a woman intent on helping Jake, but who also has an agenda of her own.
No doubt, this is a summer popcorn spectacle, but it is a fun one that satisfies more than you might expect. Watching Cowboys and Aliens in the hands of a capable director made me wonder might have been with the Transformers series had someone other than Michael Bay directed them.
If you are in the Ames area, Cowboy & Aliens is playing at the Cinemark Movies 12. In its opening week, it is on two screens at the following times: 11:55 AM, 1:20 PM, 2:45 PM, 4:10 PM, 5:35 PM, 7:00 PM, 8:25 PM, 9:50 PM.
Remember, showtimes are subject to change so check with the theater or on Cinemark.com for current times.
If you are not in the Ames area, Fandango.com has theater listings and showtimes.