A western on steroids? For years we have watched one western after another come and go without much fanfare. One reason for this is the fact westerns kind of stopped after our parent’s generation. Sure, some have made a name for themselves, like the Coen brothers, but that’s very few and far between. And I could even debate the Coen’s, but that’s an argument for a different time as this is about “Cowboys & Aliens,” a film that reminds us all just how fun movies can be when given the right direction.
As someone once said…It’s all fun and games until a ‘wanted’ criminal returns to town with a metal bracelet attached to his wrist, with absolutely no recollection on how it got there. The criminal was Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) and for all intent and purpose, he just wanted to remember who he was. But, the story went deeper than that as he had this bracelet on his wrist that possessed supernatural powers. Lonergan didn’t know this, of course, but that’s what made it fun and realistic, as you learned about this bracelet right along with the characters within the story. And there was no better lesson of this than when Lonergan helped end an alien attack on the town one night with that ‘said’ bracelet on his arm. As the town’s newfound hero, Lonergan draw attention from all sides and the next thing he knew, he was being sought after by Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). Turns out Lonergan stole some gold from the Colonel at one point in time, so naturally he would have to pay this debt back by helping Dolarhyde and his diverse posse defeat the aliens taking over their land. Of course doing this would be no easy task, as the enemy was much stronger with a lot more sophisticated weapons leading to wild conclusion full of action and intrigue.
Who was in it? Believe it or not, “Cowboys & Aliens” had quite the cast led by Daniel Craig, who played the main character Lonergan. To some, Craig is still not a household name, even though he is about to start filming his third Bond flick as the iconic super spy. That’s crazy for a guy who has been acting since 1992, but more importantly someone who has been on fire ever since blowing up on “Layer Cake.” Craig can make pretty much any role worthwhile and here, he proved to be exactly what the Dr. ordered as we watched all this chaos unfold from his own eyes. And right beside him was Harrison Ford, who at the ripe old age of 69 still has what it takes to get it done and here, he provided one great moment after another reminding us all of his greatest character to this day, Indiana Jones.
That was fun and frankly a breath of fresh air, as I never expected to enjoy Ford in that way again, so good for him and good for Favreau for bringing him into this project. Anyone else pretty much fell into place where needed, but I will say that Olivia Wilde made an impact as the only female lead. I’ve often said it’s never as easy as it looks to be the only female lead, but Wilde pulled this off leaving you wanting more. Same could even be said for Sam Rockwell, only he wasn’t given a whole lot to work with and once again, you are left with a role that could have been played be anyone. Maybe Rockwell is just too powerful to be put into supporting roles, but either way, I almost wish he had not been placed here, as it was more of a tease than anything else.
The right way or no way – Anyone that knows westerns can usually agree that without somewhat of a decent script, the action and drama will only go so far. Mix in a little science fiction with that western and you got yourself a unique situation. Not only do you have to balance the goofy side of each genre, you have to mix and match how it will look and feel. So, I for one am glad director Jon Favreau was on the job as I doubt many could have pulled this off in the way he did. Sure, many would have tried, but very few would have succeeded in the way Favreau did here. You see, Jon Favreau respects the genre that he directs in, which is crucial and for him, the recipe for success as this marks his third film within this comic book realm; this one being based from the Scott Rosenberg graphic novel. Nothing went too far and the best part was is how the story catered to the times at hand. The old west was the old west and people there had no clue what an alien was. All they wanted was to get their own people back and kill what they dubbed as “demons.” Favreau brought that feeling out and I liked that, because it was fun to watch this story play out. And that’s the main objective in my mind and probably all Jon Favreau wanted to accomplish. Was it perfect? No, but who cares given the genre and subject matter at hand.
Bottom Line – It’s always nice when a film pokes fun at itself, so for “Cowboys & Aliens” to do that and still entertain you in this manner was impressive. Plus, with aliens as realistic as what was displayed here, a la “District 9,” I would have watched even longer, so credit Jon Favreau for doing what “he wants to do.” Very few directors do that these days, which oddly can almost be the one aspect to take home and appreciate.
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