Film information: Released on DVD December 26 2011; Certificate (UK) 12A
Cast: Daniel Craig; Harrison Ford; Keith Carradine; Noah Ringer; Olivia Wilde; Sam Rockwell; Adam Beach; Paul Dano
Director: Jon Favreau
Running time: 118 mins
Cowboys and Aliens is a film set in the midwest and, as subtly suggested by the title, is about cowboys and aliens. The film opens with Jake Lonergan (Craig) waking up in the desert having no idea who he is or where he came from. In fact, all that he has is a weird device attached to his wrist. Lonergan goes searching for his memory, but when he goes to the small town of Absolution things only get worse. The town is attacked by aliens and Lonergan’s device activates. What is the device? How did he get it? Will he save the town?
Director Jon Favreau is well known for his directing and acting efforts, having directed films such as Elf (2001), and the Iron Man series. Much of his previous work blends serious storyline with comical humour so you’d expect the same for Cowboys and Aliens, but unfortunately this isn’t the case. Cowboys and Aliens in fact pulls very few comic punches but instead uses gritty violence in its stead. One would think it may challenge the conventions of western and alien films, but no, it is simply straightforward. Though this film is set in a western environment it feels a little like War of the Worlds or Independence Day: mankind vs the aliens rather than the Wild West against the aliens.
The aliens are reminiscent of War of the Worlds aliens who threaten mankind with District 9’s aesthetics and, as most of the film is shot in CGI, make convincing and terrifying monsters. We don’t feel any pity for the enemies: they are monsters, end of. Unlike Iron Man the graphic novel adaptation for this film isn’t as well executed, but the film remains a good transformation of a not-so-good piece of work.
By far the most entertaining part of the film is the beginning where you wonder if the film is going to be a mixture of True Grit and War of the Worlds, but it then pans out to be far less.
Though Craig and Ford are strangers to westerns they nevertheless manage to pull off an amicable performance. Despite effectively posing as Indiana Jones and James Bond – not the typical ensemble for this kind of film – Ford still pulls out his magic as a cynical old man who rejects his community, while Craig plays the cool, calm and collected Bond-like hero. Overall the shortcomings of the film cannot be blamed on acting but rather the weak storyline, which feels neither like a western nor a sci-fi flick.
Though this film is an easy one to watch, once you can grasp the plot it is neither the best film of the year nor the most entertaining. Then again, there is nothing too dislikeable about it either.