The Wild West just got a little wilder ... and creepier. “Cowboys & Aliens” is a genre-bending western-sci-fi-horror flick that takes the classic world of dusty, dirty gunslingers and saloon fights to a new level. Director Jon Favreau has taken a traditional man-with-no-name western and bolted on the thrills and chills of a deep-space monster movie.
Tuberculosis, small pox and drought are no longer the major concerns in this 19th century frontier land. Ravenous man-eating space demons have come to town, and as in all of the best westerns, there’s a lone gunslinger ready to take down the bad guys. Produced by Steven Spielberg, written by “Lost” mastermind Damon Lindelof with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”, “Transformers”), and based off the popular graphic novel of the same name, “Cowboys & Aliens” teams two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, along with a posse of great character actors.
Craig is Jake Lonergan, a gunslinger with no memory who wanders into a mining town lost in the shadow of cattle baron Colonel Dolarhyde, played by Harrison Ford at his absolute grumpiest. Traditional western tensions between the law, greedy ranchers, Native Americans and bandits are put on hold as they all join together to battle the race of nasty aliens.
Blending together aliens and their flying machines with 19th century frontiersmen is spectacularly refreshing entertainment. While the special effects aren’t anything revolutionary, the aliens do offer some frightening, skin-crawling moments. The mix between shoot-em-up and gooey monster horror is well played.
Offsetting the creature-features is a great supporting cast with Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Keith Carradine and Adam Beach. Olivia Wilde’s beauty seems out of place among the dirty, sweaty cowboys and greasy aliens, but she makes a decent gunslinger alongside Daniel Craig.
But the highlight of the film is Harrison Ford, who gives one of his best performances as the gloomy and cantankerous cowboy trying to save his son.
“Cowboys & Aliens” does tend to take itself too seriously at times, and for all the freshness the film offers, the final act is a bit tired. But watching Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig shoot up bad aliens more than makes up for most of the film's predictability.
3 out of 5 Stars