- Directed by Jon Favreau
- July 29, 2011 (US)
An amnesiac outlaw and a posse of townsfolk in the Old West must take on gold hungry aliens that have come to Earth.
I like science fiction and I like Westerns. Toss them together and I will give the movie some very strong consideration. I was kind of giddy actually when I first heard about Cowboys & Aliens and to know that Jon Favreau directed it made me even giddier. This came out just after Iron Man and Iron Man 2, so I expected high quality and I most certainly got it.
Daniel Craig is probably my least favorite James Bond even though he is a good actor. Here he shows he knows how to channel old-school cowboy tough. He gives his amnesiac Jake Lonergan a little more depth than just being tough or a faster gun than the rest. His Lonergan has confidence and swagger. Lonergan is very matter-of-fact with a steely eyed stare and a confident swagger in his walk. I dare say Craig channeled John Wayne in how he approached the role.
From the start something is gnawing at Lonergan. Weird bracelet aside, he knows there’s something serious going on that he needs to get as far away from as he possibly can. But it is not necessarily something you can walk away from. Lonergan is a dangerous man with a strong moral code much like in the Westerns of old and knows that whatever this thing is must be confronted.
Despite its science-fiction elements and the fact that it’s only a few years old, Cowboys & Aliens most definitely fits in the mold of the old-school Western. In this film there are larger than life characters trying to scratch together an existence in the tough wilderness fighting an implacable foe amongst grand Western vistas.
And what’s an old-school Western without a beautiful love interest. Olivia Wilde comes on as Ella Swenson who is a mysterious woman that obviously knows more than she is letting on. Her character is straight out of a science-fiction film and serves to help bridge the Western and science-fiction genres. She talks like one of the townsfolk but what she says implies greater knowledge.
Harrison Ford plays local rancher/cattle baron Dolarhyde (don’t call him “colonel”) with a dick of a son named Percy (Paul Dano) who is drunk on his father’s power. Dolarhyde is a bigot but a little more complicated than that. He loves his son but is all too aware of Percy’s flaws. He treats Native American Nat Colorado (Adam Beach) that he took in as a child as a son yet denies him what would come with being a son because of his race.
I appreciate that little bit. It gave us a more complex character rather than some two-dimensional caricature. It’s the idea of family not always being blood. During the course of the film Dolarhyde comes to terms with his own shortcomings as well as those of his son.
Our villains are an unnamed species that have landed on earth in a ship reminiscent of the Quintessons from Transformers: The Movie. That’s what I first thought of when I saw their ship. They’ve come to earth in search of gold because to quote Ella “it is as rare to them as it is to you.” One could draw parallels to what they were doing by capturing and possibly killing the locals to what happened with Native Americans in the southwest. It’s a bit of a reach but you never know.
Meacham (Clancy Brown) being a preacher references a passage from the Bible involving Moses and you’re left with the implication that these creatures have been here before. They don’t out and out say it, but that little line makes you think they have come back after thousands of years for some reason. It’s nothing that affects the story, but it is a little cool element if you catch it.
Cowboys & Aliens is just a fun Western adventure film. It’s got great chases and gun battles and energy weapons which come off as really cool in the environment. It’s a film where the cowboys and the Native Americans join forces and battle some really ugly monsters with cool spaceships. The battle to get everyone out of the spaceship is frenetic and contrary to what you see in many science-fiction films, the humans don’t really stand a chance. Those creatures are leaping around and take down the people on their horses with ease.
The introductory scene where the aliens abduct the townsfolk is great. It starts out quiet and peaceful, so you don’t know quite what to expect and then it just hits you. Bam! Explosions and energy blasts and flying machines and total chaos on the screen. The aliens are dropping what amount to the clawhooks you find in one of those games and snatching up people.
Of the weird Western genre, it is definitely a standout. I am not sure if I have ever seen anything from that subgenre use space aliens. Generally it’s closer to something you would find out of the Wild Wild West TV series than it is something you would find in Star Wars. There are probably more that touch on horror than those that use aliens.
Cowboys & Aliens has a very Western soundtrack. That’s the best way I can put it. It is just a combination of banjos and simple music that pulls you into the world. It’s not southern rock nor is it more of a hip-hop soundtrack similar to what they used in The Magnificent Seven “remake.” It’s just, well, Western.
Cowboys & Aliens is a fun and exciting film. It’s got action and just a great story. If you haven’t seen this or checked it out, I strongly suggest you do!