How does the idea of a Western film with a dab of Sci-fi seem to most people? Preposterous. How does the concept seem if the story evolves around Cowboys and Aliens? Ridiculous. Both answers are expected when looking at the latest Jon Favreu (Iron-Man and its sequel) film on paper. Yet, this time around the expectations are dead wrong. Cowboys and Aliens manages to be an entertaining, action-packed film with high-caliber acting based on the graphic novel of the same name.
The story sets off with Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) who wakes up in a strange dessert area with no memory and a picture of a woman in his pocket – which gives little or no clue to his past. The mysterious, loner man nature quickly reveals a criminal wanted by everyone in the town of Absolution, but especially by Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). The western theme is set, but it is quickly turned upside down when the town gets attack by aliens and Jake is the only man capable of fighting them back. Enemies and differences are quickly put aside taking a stand to the greater threat.
Favreau and company are able to recognize that the story and its characters are be a bit out there – without the X-files factor or E.T. treatment throughout the plot. Thus, they set out to craft a smart dialogue giving the main characters something to do and enough exposure for the audience to root for them. Add to the formula the smart casting and the storyline works itself out into a credible action flick. Craig and Ford easily embody characters that can throw punches, jump buildings and gun sling without getting a ridiculous laugh – so the transition in Cowboys and Aliens only enhances the film – and they both give a solid performance throughout. Olivia Wilde is the surprising addition to soften up the hardcore exterior of the group.
The action is absolutely up to par – every scene, encounter and turn works throughout the film without setting up the characters against the blue screen too much to keep a well-balanced reality. The special effects work, especially because of the time in history the plot is set in, so don’t expect extraordinarily looking aliens and enormous technology since they been scale down a bit.
Cowboys and Aliens might sound like a goofy and desperate Hollywood concept. But Favreau, and everyone else behind the film, prove that there is still some creativity left to turn a wild idea into an entertaining action film with solid characters and acting from beginning to end.