Action Movie Fanatix Review: Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens banner

First Contact.  Last Stand.

Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Adam Beach, Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, Paul David, Noah Ringer

Director: Jon Favreau

2011  |  119 Minutes  |  PG-13

“Demons took your gold.  When you get to hell you can ask for it back.” – Jake Lonergan

Cowboys & Aliens might have seemed like an absolutely preposterous idea for a movie to most people but when I heard about it I was instantly excited.  You know the feeling… when you see a trailer for the first time and you actually want to see that movie more than the movie it’s playing before.  That was Cowboys & Aliens for me.

Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wanders into the sleepy desert town of Absolution with no memory of his past and a futuristic shackle on his wrist.  Together with the mysterious beauty Ella (Olivia Wilde) and the hard-nosed Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), he leads a rag tag band of cowboys, outlaws and Apache warriors into battle against an out of this world foe.

It would seem the idea behind Cowboys & Aliens was to create a western movie that was actually a full blown sci-fi movie.  Director Jon Favreau has gone out of his way to keep this sci-fi movie as grounded in the western genre as possible.  Everything about it screams western… except the spaceships, laser weapons and aliens, of course.

The beginning of the movie develops in such a way that when the aliens first reveal themselves it is still surprising, despite the movie’s title.

We already knew Daniel Craig could pull off badass but we certainly haven’t seen the Brit pull off American west cowboy.  Craig does his absolute best western drawl and, honestly, he’s not too shabby at it either.

Harrison Ford’s Colonel Dolarhyde is a sheriff who seems to have seen little action much less fighting back an alien invasion with his six shooter.  Harrison Ford hasn’t played a whole ton of western characters but he does quite well, strapping on a gravelly voice and a graying five o’clock shadow like a champ.

And Olivia Wilde sure does play pretty well, don’t she.  Unfortunately there isn’t a whole ton else to her character than that.  She’s pretty and she’s mysterious… that’s it.

The alien special effects were top notch, though I wasn’t entirely thrilled with their actual design.  They felt a little uninspired.

Their ships, on the other hand, were really pretty cool.  Again, great CGI but this time with some truly original designs and neato tractor beam thingys.

Overall Cowboys & Aliens isn’t action packed.  It, again, tends to follow the traditional western slow burn with the traditional western movie big blowout ending.  And it hits you with a good number of “Hell yeah!” moments along the way.

Cowboys & Aliens is probably the best Sci-fi western I’ve ever seen.  I’m not sure I could name another but still…  It’s a fun ride but falls into the category of far too many big blockbuster attempts and fails to be overly memorable.  Despite not making any “best of” lists I reckon it’s still worth the watch.

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