Movie Review | Cowboys & Aliens
Not enough fun to justify the ticket price.
Dear Hollywood, the next time you make a movie with a title like Cowboys & Aliens, have fun with it.
For much of its running time, this Jon Favreau flick is much more sedate than a movie with that title would suggest.
The movie follows the exploits of Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig), who wakes up in the middle of the wilderness with an odd metal bracelet on his wrist and without his memories.
Of course, these facts have to do with the movie's titular aliens, who have been kidnapping settlers for nefarious purposes. After an attack on a nearby settlement, Craig and the townsfolk set out to rescue their loved ones.
That's really where the problems for this movie begin — the posse's trek through the west is long and largely uneventful. This is where the movie falls short of the title's implied promise of rip-roaring action.
In many westerns, the wilderness sets the scene, presents challenges and can even almost be a character in itself. In Cowboys & Aliens, the vast space of the west is simply where the movie takes place. It doesn't put any special challenges in front of our characters. Members of the posse never even seem especially uncomfortable — they're not hot, or cold, or thirsty or drenched in the rain. No real tension is built.
That's a big thing. You have a scenario where old-west settlers are setting off into uncharted territory to face off against an extremely dangerous threat, but none of them seem to feel threatened. There's no fear of the unknown, and no thrill of discovery. It all comes across as very, very flat.
The sad thing is, the film squanders some good acting performances. Craig is adequate as the hero of the movie, and Harrison Ford turns in his most notable work in years (his gruff-but-with-a-heart-of-gold schtick works well in the setting). Sam Rockwell and Clancy Brown work well as textured bit characters. Olivia Wilde is wonderful as a mysterious addition to the group.
The movie, though, seems much more interested in these characters' smaller struggles (Craig with his past, Rockwell with his lack of grit), than the fact that they're facing off against aliens. This would be acceptable, maybe even welcome, in a normal western but, again, they're fighting aliens. It seems that problem would take precedence.
There are some good action scenes in here, but there never seems to be a true sense of peril. With all the other entertainment options vying for your dollar, it's hard to recommend this one.
Cowboys & Aliens is rated PG-13.