First things first, I have never read the source material so this review is based solely on the strength of the movie. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed Cowboys & Aliens. Is it the greatest film ever made? No. It’s not even the greatest film that mixes science fiction with Westerns ever made (that honour goes to Serenity). But it’s hard not to come out of the cinema smiling, thinking it was a fun time.
The movie centers on Jake Lonergan, a man with no past. He wakes up in the desert with a mysterious bracelet on his arm, no memory of who he is, and heads to the nearest town. Unfortunately, Jake might not know who he is, but plenty of others do, as there are wanted posters up for Lonergan on charges of murder and robbery. Luckily for Lonergan, aliens have taken an interest in this little town, and when half the human population are kidnapped by alien space crafts, it’s up to Lonergan, his bracelet and a posse of survivors to get the people back.
The cast is top notch throughout. The way Craig saunters around, he embodies the Man with No Name archetype. As the foil to Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford plays Woodrow Dolarhyde, a complex character who you are supposed to hate at first, but will eventually win you over. Keith Carradine, Clancy Brown and Sam Rockwell round out the rock solid cast. The actors all play stock characters from the classic Western, but with enough integrity to make them their own.
I should come clean and also mention that I don’t particularly care for Westerns. There are a few, I’ve liked over the years, but it’s not a genre that generally attracts me. That said, I can honestly say that director Jon Favreau did an excellent job creating the Western backdrop for this story. Sure, there were plenty of cliches but it’s a cliché ridden genre, and there weren’t so many that it distracted.
The science fiction elements were also fun, if a little poorly explained. There were plenty of things that happened in the movie, purely for plot purposes. While we’re given some explanation as to why the aliens arrived, there are still many other questions left unanswered. I think many will be disappointed with the reason why the aliens are there, but after discussing it with Webmonkey Rob, I have to admit that it actually was an interesting idea.
Overall, I’m not sure that a group of humans in the Wild West would be able to go up against space faring aliens, and they certainly took the aliens in their stride, given the general lack of knowledge about such things! But still, if you can overlook a few of the movie’s minor plot holes, I think you’ll find a thoroughly enjoyable film, and frankly a breath of fresh air compared to most of the summer schlock in cinemas right now.