Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

Year: 2011
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Clancy Brown

Plot: Set in the Old West, a man wakes up in the middle of nowhere with no memory of how he got there, his own name, or why there is a strange metal bracelet on his wrist. He makes it to the town of Absolution, where he gets arrested promptly. But before anything else happens, the town is invaded by alien spaceships and several people are abducted. The stranger has to team up with the townsfolk, including a ruthless cattle baron and a mysterious woman, to get them back.

Review: Most people think that sci-fi and westerns don't mix. After the disasters that were Wild Wild West and Jonah Hex, who could blame them? But thankfully Jon Favreau succeeds where those two have failed.

Favreau, to his credit, spares no effort in making his film look awesome. The CGI is great, the aliens look menacing enough and their spaceships look good too, even though one might think that they're just borrowed props from Star Wars. The battle scenes are also well shot, and the aliens are just brutal and scary at times, proving that they're more than a match for the cowboys, making the fights seem real and fun to watch at the same time. Visually, Favreau scores here.

Daniel Craig makes a great action hero, but coming from James Bond himself, why wouldn't he? The thing is, Craig can't seem to shake the silent, steely eyed hero he's well known for, therefore watching him here is like watching Bond in a hat. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I was hoping for some variety. Harrison Ford gets to play the anti hero here, though he's much more believable as a grumbling old warrior than a ruthless colonel. Case in point: when he is interrogating a man while torturing him at the beginning of the film, he doesn't sound intimidating one bit. A guy like Sam Shepard could do this, but Ford? Nah. Olivia Wilde looks good here as the mysterious Ella, and judging by the amount of work she's getting away from House, things are looking up for her.

I'm very impressed with the supporting cast that Favreau has managed to procure for this film. Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, Clancy Brown, Nacho Libre's Ana de la Reguera, Windtalkers' Adam Beach, even Keith Carradine from Deadwood is here. Heck, the very charismatic Walton Goggins is here too. Awesome. The Last Airbender's Noah Ringer also has a role here, but he looks clueless most of the time. Other than Ringer, everyone fills their roles pretty good.

My main gripe is that this film only scratches the surface as far as being a western is concerned. It's not because of the sci-fi elements, it just feels a bit lean. You can call it a lite-western, ignoring the fact that it has aliens in it. But then again, they don't make westerns like they used to, so I'm cool with that. For one thing, Cowboys & Aliens is never boring throughout its two hour runtime, and it's more hit than miss for me.

I don't know why US audiences would rather watch The Smurfs than this. I say, leave The Smurfs for the kids. If you're an adult who wants to have fun at the movies, this film will do the trick. (4/5)

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