"At its heart the film is essentially about uniting together to defeat a common enemy"
Cowboys And Aliens is every bit as exciting and action packed as the title suggests. As a blend of two classic cinematic genres, western and sci fi, the film is a thoroughly entertaining rollercoaster of action, suspense and drama , and is sure to be one of the smash hits of the summer. With a title like Cowboys And Aliens, one might be under the apprehension this is somewhat of a ridiculous film, merely the brain child of the Hollywood Blockbuster system out to rake in the cash rather than supply audiences with engaging, smart cinema. Yet C & A defies all of those misconceptions and you soon realise this film is an engaging and smart piece of cinema, the filmmakers have genuinely poured their heart and souls into crafting a film that straddles both these genres in an incredibly sophisticated and stylish way.
The opening scene of C & A sets up the tone for the rest of the film, as we’re introduced to
Daniel Craig's character, Jake Lonergan, who finds himself waking up in the middle of the desert with no recollection of his where he’s come from. Three riders, clearly killers based on the Indian scalps tied to their horses approach Lonergan and realise he might be worth some money and attempt to tie him up only for Lonergan to snatch the gun from his hand in the blink of an eye and dispatch the other two in mere nano seconds. As an introduction, its a breathtaking, gritty and violent one, I was very much reminded of the opening to Quentin Tarantinos Inglorious Basterds. As well as being a cross between two vastly different genres, the film also incorporates a wide array of styles ranging from moments of comedy , horrific and bloody violence and some truly scary jump out of your chair moments.
Character wise, there are plenty of familiar character types one might associate with the western genre. Craigs character for instance has the image of the classic Man With No Name, and he plays the role incredibly well, you cant really ask for a better leading man. Craig has an incredible talent to express a lot of emotion without really saying much, which is typical of the western genre. Craig comes across as both cool and menacing in equal measure. From the opening scene alone we are well aware of how dangerous he can be. It may just be a coincidence but there is definitely a hint of Indiana Jones about Lonergan, a moment where he puts his hat on for the first time and adjusts the rim certainly echoes that of Indy.
Harrison Ford, takes on the role of a grizzled ex war colonel, Woodrow Dolarhyde, who is the towns local rancher and benefactor whose presence is both feared and respected due to the fact his cattle business is the only real source of money for the decaying town of Absolution. Initially, Dolarhyde is presented as the villain of the film, which is my only real niggle about his character because Harrison Ford is traditionally the American hero, if you think back to any of his previous films; Patriot Games, Air Force One, Star Wars, Indiana Jones..he’s only ever really played heroes so its hard to picture him at all in a role like this. Thankfully he doesnt remain the villain, over the course of the film his allegiance to Lonergan changes from that of vengeance to brothers in arms.
Rounding out the rest of the cast are Sam Rockwell who plays Doc, the local bartender whose wife was snatched by the aliens and tags along with the others in order to get her back. Rockwells character provides a lot of the comic foil , initially a push over, bullied by Dolarhydes son Pearcy but by the end of the film he stands united with the others, just as much of a hero and a warrior as they. Pearcys character is brilliantly played by Paul Dano, notable for his roles in There Will Be Blood and Little Miss Sunshine. Here he plays a character empowered by his fathers wealth and fame, using his status to bully and boss the townsfolk around, that is until Lonergan shows up though and puts him in his place , in a scene that got a big laugh in the screening, lets just say for the men it was slightly more uncomfortable to watch!
Every component of the film is pitch perfect, the cast are all fantastic and really have a great onscreen chemistry between them. Visually, the film is a tour de force taking in breathtaking vistas of the Mexican desert, the action is thick and fast and genuinely quite overwhelming at some points especially in terms of technical details such as sound design which is mind blowing in its scope, in particular when the aliens first arrive in Absolution in a frenzy of explosions and lasers and guttural space ship noises, the whole effect is quite awe inspiring. Even smaller details such as the design of the spaceships and the look of the aliens has been well thought through, giving the film an entirely realistic feel, I use the word realistic here in the sense that the world we’re seeing on screen is entirely believable within its own parameters, the film never treads into slightly outlandish or comic book territory
At its heart the film is essentially about uniting together to defeat a common enemy, which is a story as old as time but transposed into the this wild west setting and the common enemy in this case being aliens really makes for a unique and exciting cinematic experience unlike anything you’ve seen before. With a subplot involving some mysterious gold, the film is simplistic in its telling as the rag tag crew of cowboys and Indians join forces to fight back against the aliens culminating in a full on cowboys vs aliens battle that will have you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
With an equally talented crew behind the camera, Director Jon Favreau calls the shots and does so with assurance and a genuine flair for the art of filmmaking. Combined with Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer on producing duties it seems almost impossible this film would be anything less than spectacular. As I mentioned at the beginning, Cowboys and Aliens will undoubtedly be one of the big films this summer and rightly so, its action packed, its smart, its scary, its fun and you cant really ask for much more than that at the cinema.