A stranger wakens in the Arizona desert in the late 1800s. He has no recollection of how he arrived there, nor what his name is, nor why he has a mysterious shackle on his left wrist. He is just as baffled as the audience. The stranger in this case is Jake Lonergan (played by Daniel Craig), did you notice his name has the word “loner” in it? That should tell you something about the character. After awaking, Lonergan fights his way to acquire a horse then finds his way to the town of Absolution, Ariz.
Soon we discover that Jake is a wanted man and he finds himself landed in the nearest jail cell. Still Jake and the audience do not know why he is a wanted man. Meanwhile, a herd of cattle has been evaporated by a fire that came from the night sky. Now, this would not have been such a bad deal but the cattle belonged to Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde (played by Harrison Ford). Dolarhyde is a Civil War veteran with the personality of sandpaper. He has a tough but (somewhat) fair attitude with his cowhands and the people of Absolution.
Word quickly gets back to Dolarhyde that his son Percy (played by Paul Dano) is in jail for shooting a deputy. The elder Dolarhyde rides into town to take his son home and here we are introduced to the aliens for the first time. We also learn the purpose of the shackle on Lonergan’s wrist. It’s for shooting back at the aliens and blowing crap up. For a guy in the 1800s, he adapts quickly to new technology (I wonder what would have happened if he woke up with an iPhone in is his hand. He probably would have figured how to “check-in” on Facebook and send a few texts).
Dolarhyde and Lonergan start a posse to find the townsfolk who were nabbed by the aliens. The film started taking on a darker feel to it similar to the John Wayne film “The Searchers.” A small posse sets out on abducted person crusade. They soon run into Jake’s old gang (think Hole in the Wall Gang), however Jake doesn’t remember who the gang is or what he used to with them.
Yet again, the aliens attack at the most inopportune time for the posse. Jake and his love interest Ella (played by Olivia Wilde) end up on the back of one the complicated looking flying objects and they zoom over the Arizona desert. Still, Jake seems comfortable with this new technology. He was the first human to experience flight at a high rate of speed and blew things up along the way. Because of it all he makes one smart comment.
The posse soon joins forces with a local Navajo tribe to attack the aliens and send them back to which ever planet they came from. We never do find out what planet they did come from. We only know that the aliens are here scoping up humans for some devilish alien plan that involves dissections and stealing gold from the cowboys.
Should you see this movie? Sure, it’s a good popcorn flick for the summer. If you like the Western genre or the alien genre there is enough action, whiskey drinkin’ and laser blasts to hold a story together. It also has some decent performances from, Col. Sandpaper (Ford) and “the man with no name,” who’s real name is Jake (Craig). You will see some homages to the Westerns of old.
But the area where the director (Jon Favreau, “Iron Man” “Elf”) didn’t spend much time on was the actual aliens. I feel that we only knew of these creatures as advanced savages that were attacking the human race for gold or to run experiments on cowboys. I compare the film somewhat to “Aliens” or “Predators” or even “Aliens vs. Predators.” At least in those alien films the creatures had some personality.