COWBOYS & ALIENS is an American science-fiction Western directed by the talented Jon Favreau (IRON MAN, IRON MAN 2) and stars Daniel Craig (CASINO ROYALE, LAYER CAKE), Harrison Ford (STAR WARS Series, INDIANA JONES Series), and a whole slew of other amazingly talented actors that make up one of the coolest ensembles in memory. COWBOYS & ALIENS tells the tale of a town full of ruffians as they defend themselves against an unexpected alien invasion in 1873 Arizona. They all must put their differences aside to defeat a greater evil. The story begins as Jake Lonergan (Craig) wakes up in the middle of nowhere and remembers nothing about who he is or how he got there. The only thing he seems to remember is how to kick ass. On top of all that, he has a huge metal bracelet on his wrist that emits large bursts of energy at just the right moment. COWBOYS & ALIENS is a fantastic summer movie that has a fun and inventive story, one of the coolest casts I’ve seen in a movie, and some truly awe inspiring special effects and creature designs.
I really enjoyed the overall structure and pacing of COWBOYS & ALIENS and it had my full attention from the opening scene to the ending credits. This is part in due to the fact that the film opens on a mysterious cowboy (Craig) as he awakens in the middle of the desert with no memory at all and an unidentified weapon attached to his wrist. He can also kick tons of ass. So much mystery! We learn all about this character throughout the film as he learns about himself creating a dynamic character that evolves WITH the audience. It is a very fun story telling method that I believe makes the audience much more active and engaged. While the story is not that deep, it is a pleasure to learn about the characters and their back stories as they evolve within the story line. The premise is good fun and had me hooked due to great pacing and creative storytelling. And come on, it all has to do with cowboys AND aliens. If you are a huge nerd like me, then you will find a crap ton of things to like about this film!
As I mentioned above, this movie is absolutely full of awesome characters played by amazingly talented actors. Daniel Craig as our main hero Jake Lonergan does a brilliant job as the mysterious cowboy with an even more mysterious past. He is likable, perfectly stoic, and kicks all kinds of ass. I really can’t picture any other actor pulling this character off as well as Craig. We also get Harrison Ford in his best performance in years as the gruff Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde. It is great seeing Ford in a big summer movie again and his performance here shows us that not only does he have an awesome screen presence, but he too can kick a whole lot of ass. It was a huge treat seeing Craig, who I consider one of the greatest actors of our generation, paired with Ford who is a screen legend. Cool stuff. Besides those two we get a whole slew of amazing talent in the form of Olivia Wilde (TRON: LEGACY), Sam Rockwell (MOON), Paul Dano (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), Clancy Brown (HIGHLANDER), and Adam Beach (WINDTALKERS) just to name a few. Without spoiling anything I will safely say that each character here gets their moment to shine. I was often beside myself thinking about how cool this cast really was. Think about it, we have James Bond, Han Solo/Indiana Jones, that hot chick from TRON, the main villain from HIGHLANDER and freaking Sam Rockwell in ONE movie! Multiple nerdgasm!
At its core COWBOYS & ALIENS is a summer blockbuster. You pay those hefty movie prices to not only see a good story with cool characters but to see some balls to the wall action. This is definitely an action movie first and foremost. The first part of this movie is a seriously legitimate Western full of brawls and gunfights galore. I believe Favreau has a true knack for the Western genre and I would surely like to see him revisit it in the near future. The fist fights are loud and visceral, the gun battles are brutal, and the tensions between the characters are high! Then the aliens just rip through the narrative like the Joker did in THE DARK KNIGHT completely changing the pace as well as the characters motives and actions. It was really fun seeing how different these characters treated one another before and after the aliens strike. And without spoiling anything, I will say that both the aliens themselves and the crafts they fly in were extremely well done and satisfying. They were a whole lot cooler than I had imagined and the creature designs were excellent and intimidating. Seeing Cowboys fight aliens was just plain cool and done with great style here. While there was no one specific moment that made me crap my Legend of Zelda themed underwear, I would say that the action was consistent and cool. The best moments for me involved watching Lonergen kick numerous asses at once, Ford being bad ass again, and the initial alien invasion. Overall, this is a very complete action package that admittedly could have had one or two more landmark moments in my opinion considering the subject matter. I consider that a nitpick though.
COWBOYS & ALIENS is a unique and engaging film that serves as a fun summer action movie with style. I was thoroughly engaged the entire time due to the smart pacing and storytelling. The characters were awesome, the actors were all in top form, the action is fun, and the effects and creatures amazed. I had a blast with this one and consider it near the top of my list of favorite summer movies of 2011. Highly recommended.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10