Monday, August 01, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

Take a high concept idea, mix it with stereotypic characters, throw in two action hero icons and how can you miss? It's a weak story but you can still have fun watching cowboy heroes defeat evil aliens and save the day.

Director Jon Favreau has developed a distinct action style. Many of the action sequences here reminded me of "Iron Man" but that's not necessarily a bad thing. He does a good job playing the high concept straight and keeping things dramatic despite the unlikely combination of the old west meets "Alien/Predator". He does show a flair for the visual with two scenes in particular. The first time the locals encounter the alien ship will remind you of Richard Dreyfuss in "Close Encounters of The Third Kind" but it still makes a visual impact (coincidently Steven Spielberg is an executive producer). The other visual standout is a shot of the Indians taking position among the bleached white rocks before the attack on the alien ship. It's a quick shot but looks great.

The screenplay's roots can be traced all the way back to "The Searchers" starring John Wayne (his grandson actually has a small part in the film). Rather than tracking his niece captured by Indians, Rancher Harrison Ford goes in search of his wayward son captured by aliens, here on Earth to mine our gold. Enter the mysterious gunslinger played by Daniel Craig (with a reasonable American accent) who teams up with the rancher, a gang of outlaws and the local Indian tribe to find their family members also captured by the aliens.

Olivia Wilde plays Ella, a woman with secrets of her own and the various other key characters are played by Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, Clancy Brown, and Walton Goggins. With the exception of Ms. Wilde's Ella, everyone else is a stock character out of any western. Mr. Ford and Mr. Craig take everything very seriously and keep you engaged as the film progresses towards it's inevitable climax.

It's a crazy concept that works on the strength and conviction of it's cast. So while not the most intelligent script, "Cowboys & Aliens" is still a fun ride... whether on horseback or spaceship.

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