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Review: Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens
07.28.2011
8 10

PLOT: A man (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the desert with no memory, a mysterious gaping wound, and a strange metal bracelet attached to his wrist. He makes his way to a small town in Arizona, which is lorded over by a ruthless cattle baron, Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), and soon discovers that his name is in fact Jake Lonergan, and that he’s a wanted man. However, his past sins are the least of his worries once the town is attacked by alien spaceships, which abduct many of townsfolk, including Dolarhyde’s son. When Lonergan’s metal bracelet turns out to be an alien weapon, Dolarhyde recruits him into a posse tasked with saving the abducted towns folk, and destroying the alien menace.

REVIEW: Sci-fi westerns are a tough thing to pull off, and past efforts, including Barry Sonnenfeld’s infamous WILD, WILD, WEST and Jimmy Hayward’s JONAH HEX, have been disastrous. I’d wager that the real reason those films didn’t work is that the filmmakers involved had no idea how to construct a proper western, thus giving the films a wacky, tongue-in-cheek aesthetic that audiences found repellent.


Luckily, Jon Favreau doesn’t make the same mistake Sonnenfeld and Hayward made and despite the wacky premise, the film takes itself dead serious (or at least as serious as a film about cowboys and aliens can be). What makes COWBOYS & ALIENS really good is that Favreau really seems to understand westerns, an increasingly endangered genre, which is long overdue for a comeback.

When they’re made nowadays, westerns tend to be of the more elegiac fashion (like THE PROPOSITION, or THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD) but Favreau takes a completely different approach, with this being a full-out homage to the adventure-filled westerns of John Ford and Howard Hawks, albeit with aliens.

All the classic archetypes are accounted for in COWBOYS & ALIENS and are embodied perfectly by the top-notch cast. Daniel Craig plays the requisite mysterious stranger, with him seemingly being patterned after Steve McQueen in John Sturges’ THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN or the later NEVADA SMITH, although he also has heavy echoes of Alan Ladd in SHANE. This is a great action role for Craig outside of Bond, and he brings the same dynamic physicality to the role, with lots of fist-fights, stunts, and shoot-em’ ups.

As for Ford, well, as a guy who grew up watching him (as did we all), it’s a treat to see him in another heroic role, with his ornery, but ultimately heroic Dolarhyde having heavy shades of John Wayne in Howard Hawks’ RED RIVER. Ford seems more energized here than he’s been in years and there’s none of the hushed delivery that’s driven me crazy in his last couple of films. Favreau has brought more out of Ford than anybody has in a while.


The rest of the cast is filled out with a bunch of fun, Wild West characters, from Adam Beach’s Indian tracker, to Sam Rockwell’s timid saloon keeper. I especially liked Clancy Brown as the pistol packing reverend, who would have been right at home in any of Hawks’ or Ford’s films (very-Ward Bond-ish).

The cast is rounded out by Olivia Wilde as the mysterious beauty that seems to know more about the aliens than anyone else. I like Wilde a lot and she fits into the whole western-adventure genre quite well, although a twist with her character that happens midway through is probably one of the few things about COWBOYS & ALIENS that didn’t quite strike a chord with me. I also had a bit of a problem with the fact that Noah Ringer, as a boy whose grandfather (the town sheriff, played by Keith Carradine) is among the abductees, is allowed to tag along with a posse that’s riding into certain death. Then again, it’s a fantasy, and I also thought Ringer was quite good (hard to believe this is the same kid from THE LAST AIRBENDER), specifically in his scenes opposite Ford.


Like Favreau’s IRON MAN films, he keeps the action moving at a furious pace, with lots of huge set pieces liberally sprinkled throughout the lean 118-minute runtime. It’s also beautifully shot and thankfully, no 3D!

All in all, COWBOYS & ALIENS is a fun-filled summer blockbuster, anchored by a great cast and solid craftsmanship on the part of Favreau. I hope Favreau is able to revisit the western genre in the future minus the aliens, as it’s a type of film that really needs a comeback. Until then, this will do nicely.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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+1
6:20AM on 08/28/2011
Horrible Movie. Iron Man was a lucky fluke for Faverau. He's obviously a HACK.
Horrible Movie. Iron Man was a lucky fluke for Faverau. He's obviously a HACK.
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3:37AM on 08/06/2011
One thing I was not expecting from this movie was how bland it actually wound up being. It's Indiana Jones teaming up with Bond, directed by that Iron Man guy. Everything about this movie screamed awesome! Hell, I liked Faverau's Zathura. Where was the fun? The energy? I wish I knew. Like most everything else this god-forsaken year, bland, mediocre, and just not worth it.
One thing I was not expecting from this movie was how bland it actually wound up being. It's Indiana Jones teaming up with Bond, directed by that Iron Man guy. Everything about this movie screamed awesome! Hell, I liked Faverau's Zathura. Where was the fun? The energy? I wish I knew. Like most everything else this god-forsaken year, bland, mediocre, and just not worth it.
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11:06PM on 07/31/2011
I was very happy to see Clancy Brown on the big screen. I'm a die hard Earth-2 fan and I couldn't help but see that good man that he was on that show. A+
I was very happy to see Clancy Brown on the big screen. I'm a die hard Earth-2 fan and I couldn't help but see that good man that he was on that show. A+
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5:36PM on 07/29/2011

5/10

I know alot of people aren't going to like this point of view and I respect everyone's opinion but, after just seeing the biggest disappointment of the summer(I don't consider Green Lantern a disappointment since it always looked bad.) It's hard to believe such a high score here. This movie had everything going for it and yet barely delivers. Where was the fun and energy Favreau brought to the Iron Man films? C&A was a lazy, routine, funless film that ruins a great concept and wastes a great
I know alot of people aren't going to like this point of view and I respect everyone's opinion but, after just seeing the biggest disappointment of the summer(I don't consider Green Lantern a disappointment since it always looked bad.) It's hard to believe such a high score here. This movie had everything going for it and yet barely delivers. Where was the fun and energy Favreau brought to the Iron Man films? C&A was a lazy, routine, funless film that ruins a great concept and wastes a great cast by being as by the numbers as it could. I was so disappointed when I left the theater.I still can't believe Favs took such a great genre mix up and delivered such a ho-hum flick. Bummed! 5 out of 10 at most.
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12:00PM on 07/29/2011
I can't wait until someone makes a Red Dead Redemption movie. That if done right would be epic. This sounds great. My two fav genres.
I can't wait until someone makes a Red Dead Redemption movie. That if done right would be epic. This sounds great. My two fav genres.
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3:58AM on 07/29/2011
Great review! You mentioning Howard Hawks increased my anticipation even more. Can't wait to see this. Favs seems very pumped about this. He has worked his ass off to get where he is.
Great review! You mentioning Howard Hawks increased my anticipation even more. Can't wait to see this. Favs seems very pumped about this. He has worked his ass off to get where he is.
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8:42PM on 07/28/2011
doesnt mean much as joblo thought captain america was worth an 8 rather than a 6
doesnt mean much as joblo thought captain america was worth an 8 rather than a 6
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6:50PM on 07/28/2011
It might me be just me but as I was reading this glowing review I expected the rating to be atleast a 9.
Loving everything about a movie, 2 or 3 minor quibbles aside, and giving it an 8/10 seems a bit harsh.
It might me be just me but as I was reading this glowing review I expected the rating to be atleast a 9.
Loving everything about a movie, 2 or 3 minor quibbles aside, and giving it an 8/10 seems a bit harsh.
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6:43PM on 07/28/2011
for a good laugh read Roger Ebert's review, he said it would have been a better western without the aliens, lol he clearly did not get the concept of this movie & proof he needs to hang it up already. Although he still gave it 3 stars.

Great review & i can't wait to see this movie, i mean its Indy & James Bond & the gorgeous Olivia Wilde naked. This is the last blockbuster of the summer for sure. BTW i still have a soft spot for Wild Wild West since it wasn't trying to take itself serious
for a good laugh read Roger Ebert's review, he said it would have been a better western without the aliens, lol he clearly did not get the concept of this movie & proof he needs to hang it up already. Although he still gave it 3 stars.

Great review & i can't wait to see this movie, i mean its Indy & James Bond & the gorgeous Olivia Wilde naked. This is the last blockbuster of the summer for sure. BTW i still have a soft spot for Wild Wild West since it wasn't trying to take itself serious like the horrible Jonah Hex did.
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3:31PM on 07/28/2011

YES!

Im so glad you loved it chris i know this summer has been a bit hit and miss for the big blockbusters to say the least.
Im so glad you loved it chris i know this summer has been a bit hit and miss for the big blockbusters to say the least.
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+5
2:41PM on 07/28/2011
Noah Ringer can act? That makes me even angrier at Shyamalan.
Glad to see that this film is finding appreciation, even if others have mentioned some irritation at inconsistencies and not so developed aliens. Looking forward to it anyway.
Noah Ringer can act? That makes me even angrier at Shyamalan.
Glad to see that this film is finding appreciation, even if others have mentioned some irritation at inconsistencies and not so developed aliens. Looking forward to it anyway.
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12:05PM on 07/28/2011
I knew this film was going to be great. I dont understand all the people saying it looks dumb and weird. I knew this would be good I just knew it!
I knew this film was going to be great. I dont understand all the people saying it looks dumb and weird. I knew this would be good I just knew it!
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12:06PM on 07/28/2011
Do you want a cookie?
Do you want a cookie?
+18
10:37AM on 07/28/2011
Super hyped about this! Glad it's getting good reviews, hopefully it'll do well at the box office, too.
Super hyped about this! Glad it's getting good reviews, hopefully it'll do well at the box office, too.
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10:32AM on 07/28/2011
awesome. Cant wait
awesome. Cant wait
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+20
10:31AM on 07/28/2011
Awesome so looking forward to this!! We've been blessed with a couple decent westerns in the last few years. 310 to Yuma, and of course True Grit come to mind.
Awesome so looking forward to this!! We've been blessed with a couple decent westerns in the last few years. 310 to Yuma, and of course True Grit come to mind.
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