Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
Director: Jon Favreau
A tough as nail Cowboy (Craig) wakes up with a bad case of amnesia and an odd looking bracelet latched onto his wrist. But before he can figure out what the frick is going on, an armada of pesky aliens yeehaw their way down and start snatching peeps. So our man with no brain teams up with some locals and no bull cattle king Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) in the attempt of saving the day. Saddle up!
The Western genre is one of my personal favorites. I mean what's not to love? It was a time when nature still shined and technology was fairly nonexistent, a time when men were men and conflicts were often resolved with a fist in the face or a round of bullets in the chest. My kind of good old days. If there's a time period I would have felt at home in; it would have been then. I also dig on the alien invasion subgenre, basically one concept that keeps being repeated on TV and in movies but yet never, ever gets old for me. Be it via WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953), INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978), V (1983) or the recent BATTLE LOS ANGELES (2011), I can clock aliens trying to take over our shit-hole-globe 24/7. So when the news came that Jon "he's so money" Favreau was gonna take on COWBOYS & ALIENS (based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's 2006 graphic novel of the same name), my jockeys bunched up in anticipation to witness a movie that tackles two of my favorites genres at the same time. Basically the cinematic equivalent of nailing a blonde and a brunette at the same time in a pristine bathroom stall! Hard to go wrong with that! Yeehaw! So did it deliver? Read on!
The first thing that COWBOYS AND ALIENS did right in my book was take itself seriously. If we look back at the Horror/Sci-Fi westerns that popped 3 cherries like HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973) or WESTWORLD (1973), they all had that in common – a straight face. The ones that couldn't get it up, like JONAH HEX (2010) and WILD, WILD, WEST (1999) took the campy trail to become road kill. Coincidence? Maybe! For me? NO! So for a while there, COWBOYS & ALIENS came across as a genuine Western in tone and visual approach (it helped that it was in 2D and shot on actual film as opposed to HD). Think John Ford's 1956 THE SEARCHERS (which I hear Spielberg had the crew watch along with Close Encounters of the Third Kind as prep), with lots of wide shots of the striking landscapes and down & dirty production designs/costumes and you get a good idea of the vibe this one went for. Another aspect that supported Favreau's grounded approach was his impeccable casting. Nobody is gonna laugh at a movie when there's freaking Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford leading the posse. Craig nailed his ode to The Man With No Name and then some. His silent intensity, his beedy little f*cking eyes, his knack at whooping ass like no other... gold! And was I alone in thinking that he looked like Yule Brenner's robo-a-hole Cowboy in Westworld? I swear during the initial Saloon scene, it was like I was watching the bar bit in the latter flick. That is a compliment BTW.
On his end Ford took what could've been a one note Black Hat role and gave it layers via his astoundingly “human” performance. I couldn't take my six-shooter off Ford, every time he was onscreen. He owned it and then some! The cast definitively brought class and legitimacy to the proceedings, hence once the aliens finally did crash the party, I bought it wholesale. So having nailed the Western ying of the picture, how did Favs do with its yang Sci-Fi aspects? Just as well. The aliens came through; they were scary looking (reminded me of the beasties from DOOM mixed in with Kuato from TOTAL RECALL), mucho aggressive in nature while the CGI was tops. The same went for their space-crafts which looked like robotic insects that even RAID couldn't raid. Fun freaking times! Add to all that celluloid love, a handful of exciting action sequences, some crazy shoot-outs, a potent mystery that had me going, Favreau on top of his shit behind the lens (loved the execution of the Cowboy on horse vs. space-craft bit) and the gorgeous Olivia Wilde bringing a much needed dose of estrogen to the proceedings and you get a tight genre bender that didn't blow me away to kingdom cum but had me in its grasp and evoked some smiles the whole way none the less.
With that, bummer that for the first hour or so, although engaging and putting out random action scenes, there was an energy missing. I mean once the shit hit the fan I should have been swept away, but some reason that I can't really pin-point I wasn't. The film maybe needed more BIG BUMPS in its narrative and further physical conflict to spruce things up. Thankfully it went all out with its finale hence leaving me on a happy-ending note. Then we had the “motive” of the aliens which was ho-hum to say the least. Not sure what would have worked being that its all been done a zillion times already, but what they came up with didn't do it for me. Finally some suspension of disbelief had to be applied here and there, nothing critical, and to be expected from a film called COWBOYS & ALIENS but I noticed, so I write it down, it's what I do... who cares. All in all COWBOYS & ALIENS made for a swell sit down. It worked as an alien opus, worked even better as a Western, showcased top notch thespians at their best(yes Sam Rockwell was solid here too) and tossed enough action bits to please. It didn't make me grow a third ball, but it had me start my day on the right Cowboy boot, I hope it does for you too!
We get some light blood, stabbings, damaged E.T.s and alien plasma.
T & A
Olivia Wilde is naked at some point but we don't see the goods. Sniffles. The ladies get Daniel Craig shirtless still showing off his ripped Bond physique.
COWBOYS & ALIENS was an honest Western with Sci-Fi beats that hit home! It had a stand-out cast (Craig and Ford really elevated the picture to a new level of f*ck yeah), top notch production values, scary creatures, lots of bang-bang and an action packed finale that left me with a grin on my face. It's a tad disappointing that the adrenaline quota of the flick wasn't higher for it first hour, although it had me by the balls, it didn't crush them and yeah the aliens motive....Zzzzz. But on the whole though, I had a fly time with this one, there was heart and a passion that seeped out the screen (in front and behind the camera) that made it endearing to me. And it definitely put me back on the “I am in the mood to watch Westerns” path.
Robert Downey Jr. was set to play Jake Lonergan, but had to pull out due to scheduling conflicts.
Was I alone in thinking that Lonergan's knack at always getting his hat back was a nod to Indiana Jones?
Eva Green was offered the role of Ella, she turned it down.