Cowboys and Aliens (2011)
March 2, 2012
“Only two kinds of men get shot: criminals and victims. Which one are you?”
Synopsis: – Seriously. Its called Cowboys and Aliens, you don’t need a plot synopsis for this.
Cowboys and Aliens is a surprisingly good movie; it has a fantastic cast, skilled directing, beautiful scenery, and plenty of gun-slinging action. In fact, its so good that it may lure you into thinking its a decent adventure movie about real people and the western frontier. And just when you’re starting to take it seriously, it’ll slap you in the face with a juvenile action-cliche and remind you “hey, what are you doing! Are you actually expecting this to make any sense!? Its called COWBOYS AND ALIENS!!!”
Even though Daniel Craig is definitely not playing 007 this time, there’s enough action movie cliche’s and contrived gadget-saves to make you wonder if this character is really a time traveling James Bond. Once again, remind yourself, “this is a cowboy movie… with aliens…” and all will be put right. This won’t be making anyone’s top ten list, no matter how much they love cowboys and/or aliens. But besides the handful of western and science fiction cliche’s, there’s some genuinely good moments here.
What makes it good?
Westerns have a way of rounding up a star-studded cast, and here Cowboys and Aliens is no exception. Daniel Craig is sufficient as the archetypal amnesic anti-hero (see what I did there?) who can out-gun, out-ride, and out-brawl anyone despite not knowing his own name. His look and demeanor lend itself to this role well, though at times you can tell he’s struggling to subvert his English dialect and replace it with a sandpapery western one.
Harrison Ford is perfect as the semi-antagonist ranch owner with a dark past. Part of me wishes the aliens hadn’t shown up and stolen his villainous thunder. Ford’s screen presence brings a unique gravity and emotional depth to the film, not something you’d expect in a movie about aliens. (… and see what I did there?) The supporting cast gives noteworthy performances which I’ll summarize briefly: Sam Rockwell (hilarious), Adam Beach (impactful), Clancy Brown (king of the one-liners), Paul Dano (who we love-to-hate), and Olivia Wilde (meh?)
Pretty much every Western ever told is about redemption. Lone hero with a troubled past, father with an estranged son, pretty girl looking to avenge those who killed her family, etc. Its all been done before (well, at least without aliens). In one way or another, they’re all looking to redeem themselves and their relationships. There’s a strong theme of valuing life, relationships, and virtue, because we don’t know how much time we have before death.
Conclusion: “What you see is what you get.”
This is a cowboy movie. And its a sci-fi alien movie. But whether or not its greater or less than the proverbial ‘sum of its parts’ is up to you. You can get frustrated with its plot holes and disregard for basic physics, or you can enjoy it for what it is. Cowboys and Aliens follows a similar formula as the Indiana Jones films: “Take a B movie action-adventure and give it an A-level director, cast, and special effects.” The result is an enjoyable popcorn flick featuring the New Mexico desert, gritty cowboys, and of course, aliens.