Cowboys & Aliens

Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) enters the town of Absolution in 1873 as a man with no name.  In fact, he’s a man without an identity.  He doesn’t know his own ‘who,’ ‘where,’ or why.  What he does know is that he can speak English, he’s wounded, he can easily disarm and maim a group of men singlehandedly, and he has a permanent shiny bracelet on his wrist.  Soon enough he is made aware that he is a wanted murderer and thief—what he did exactly he can’t recall.  Luckily for him he angered the wrong fellow, Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), a wealthy rancher trying to industrialize Absolution.  Dolarhyde’s son Percy (Paul Dano) is a wreckless and cowardly twit.  The town has had about enough of him and Lonergan fails to last even minutes in his presence without putting him in his place.  When both Jake and Percy finds themselves under arrest, Dolarhyde comes to rip them both from the hands of the law.  Things aren’t boding well for our antihero until bright lights peer in from above.  The bracelet on his wrist starts blinking.  Enemy alien spaceships zoom in overhead and begin snatching people up from the street, including Dolaryde’s boy and the town sheriff.  The cowboys are forced to chase after their loves ones that were abducted by ‘demons.’  Lonergan is coerced into joining Dolarhyde and his posse as he searches for answers to his past.

While part of me feels that Director Jon Favreau could have just as easily skipped the whole ‘aliens invade’ plot and delivered the best straight-up western of the last decade or so, I would be lying if I said I didn’t still enjoy the heck out of Cowboys & Aliens.  Favreau could’ve turned this into a gooey camp fest, but instead he’s taking things dead on serious.  The threat is immense.  The violence is gritty.  Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig are bent on saving the Old West and they deliver top-dollar performances.  Even with such silliness in the plot (and there are a few howlers and head-scratchers—some of them hybrids), the movie plays like it’s a full-out invasion assault.  I rather appreciated that even if it seems other viewers wanted a more self-aware picture.  Sorry folks, there’s no snakes on this plane.

Favreau improves on Iron Man 2.  He feels much more like a competent action director.  Cowboys & Aliens has several impressive gunfights and aerial battles, giant special effects, and it moves at great speed.  In between the lightning and thunder, we get actors doing something great—called acting.  Ford, Craig, Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, and others have interesting dialogue and several moments of humor.  I really felt like Favreau and his team put together the ideal summer popcorn film.  Cowboys, aliens, guns, pow and laughs—what more can you want?

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