out of Five
Running time: 118
Enjoyable, well made and superbly acted sci fi-slash-Western adventure that duly delivers both cowboys and aliens, though a little bit of humour wouldn't have gone amiss.
What's it all about?
Directed by Jon Favreau, Cowboys & Aliens is based on a comic book and stars Daniel Craig as Jake, an outlaw who wakes up in the desert with a strange metal bracelet clamped to his arm and no memory of who he is. Staggering into a dusty one-horse town, Jake is promptly arrested by the sheriff (Keith Carradine) after clashing with the bullying son (Paul Dano as Percy) of grizzled landowner Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford).
However, when airborne aliens suddenly attack the town and start kidnapping the locals (including Percy), Jake discovers that the bracelet on his arm is capable of shooting down their spaceships, so he joins a posse lead by Dolarhyde in order to find the aliens and save the townsfolk. Also joining the posse are the wimpy local doctor (Sam Rockwell), Dolarhyde's half-Indian right hand man (Adam Beach), a beautiful, mysterious woman (Olivia Wilde) and some very confused members of Jake's former outlaw gang (Walton Goggins, Clancy Brown).
There's an obvious thrill to seeing James Bond and Indiana Jones sharing screen space (something the film wisely chooses not to
acknowledge), and Craig is terrific as the Man Who Can't Remember His Name, to the point where you hope he does more Westerns. Similarly, Ford is on top grouchy form as Dolarhyde and there's superb support from Beach, Carradine and an absurdly gorgeous Olivia Wilde, though both Sam Rockwell and Walton Goggins are criminally under-used.
The alien effects are extremely well done and there are some delightful touches, such as the fact that the aliens are after the earth's gold or the fact that their kidnapping technique is more like lassoing than beaming up. In addition, the action set pieces are a lot of fun (most notably Craig jumping onto the back of a spaceship) and Jake's gradually remembered back story is suitably moving.
That said, there are some frustrating lapses in logic, such as why Jake's bracelet weapon isn't deployed at a rather important moment. On top of that, there's a surprising lack of humour in the dialogue (no witty one-liners here), so the film's never quite as much fun as it should have been.
Cowboys & Aliens is an entertaining, well made sci fi / Western hybrid that delivers a double dose of genre based thrills and is ultimately worth seeing for the performances by Craig and Ford.