Film Review: Cowboys & Aliens

(Read this in my publication In Retrospect – Issue 1)

Based on the graphic novel of the same name created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg in 2006, Cowboys & Aliens is a Western sci-fi directed by Jon Favreau.

Set in Arizona in 1873, Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of a desert with no recollection of who he is or what has happened to him. With a cut in his chest and a mysterious metallic object attached around his wrist, Jake stumbles into the town of Absolution where he is recognised as a wanted outlaw. When trying to escape, Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde) knocks him out and is asked for by Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), a rich and influential cattleman who Jake has supposedly stolen some gold from.

Just when the Western music is about to play as the two give each other a twitchy stare, gripping for their guns, across the way from each other, alien spaceships begin attacking the town, abducting a number of townsfolk. Jake’s mysterious shackle shoots down one of the ships, so the cowboys of Absolution and Ella, whom we know to be an outsider, form a ‘posse’ to investigate the fallen ship in their first attempt of defeating the aliens that are threatening their town.

In between this story line of the present, we also see a series of flashbacks about Jake’s past, revealing more about him, as we, and he, still know nothing but his name. We are then introduced to a woman who we presume to be Jake’s wife, who we are yet to meet, but then we see that the two were abducted, revealing more about the beginnings of the aliens’ attacks as well. Whilst we switch through these two different time frames, the film doesn’t become confusing. Too many films that I have watched this month have lost my interest from too much story with little explanation, but Cowboys & Aliens uses these flashbacks successfully, filling in any details we may have missed and not leaving us to ask what’s going on.

In addition, Ella’s character is used effectively throughout the film, giving more explanation through more interesting means. Whilst an alien invasion in the Wild West isn’t the most natural of scenarios, everything is smoothly linked together to avoid the film becoming unbelievable.

Admittedly, the film is more of a Western than an alien invasion. Some parts can seem quite cliché and the Cowboy vs. Cowboy vs. Indians that lies in the back story can sometimes get a little tiresome, but when everyone unites and it’s time to destroy the aliens, these Cowboys and Indians give some decent action (not at all like the game we played as youngsters). The aliens, as well, are very creepy, which is a relief after seeing Super 8 earlier this month. This is what you expect from an alien film; slimy insides and laser guns, not a bigger version of ET.

Whilst there were many speculations before watching this film, with the combination of Cowboys, aliens, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford screaming ‘Boys Only!’, it is pleasantly surprising. Oliver Wilde adds some, almost, glamour to the film. And to be honest, her eyes could seduce anyone.

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