Monday, September 12, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens Review

Cowboys + Aliens equals one heck of a awesome movie. That is probably the most apt phrase I can think of to describe “Cowboys and Aliens” which I finally got around to seeing this past week. This movie had kind of an underwhelming reception when it came out a couple months ago which surprises me considering the flat out good time my dad and I had watching it. Maybe people’s expectations are just too unbelievably high nowadays. Or maybe like the film’s less than peaceful extra-terrestrials I must be from another planet. Anyhoo, this genre blending spectacle of guns and (not so little) green men captured my imagination and kept me well on the edge of my seat until the credits started rolling. Complete with mystery, monsters, space ships, and a heavy helping of daring-do, “Cowboys and Aliens” is pretty much everything one could ask for in a summer blockbuster. Oh, and did I mention Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford star in it? Talk about too much testosterone for one movie!
The movie opens with Jake (Daniel Craig) awakening in the middle of the desert with no idea who he is or were he came from. His only clue as to what happened to him lies in a strange metallic armband cuffed around his wrist. We quickly learn that Jake is one dangerous dude after he makes short work of some varmints who try to rob him before moseying in to the nearest town of absolution. Jake is not there very long before the unflattering truth of who he is catches up with him and after a perfunctory barroom dustup with the local deputies he winds up cooling his heals in the pokey soon to be tried for his past crimes. Just as with Bond, Daniel once again proves why he is certifiable action hero in “C&A.” He exudes the confident, steely eyed rogue persona almost effortlessly while maintaining a sense of mystery and unpredictability that always make him a blast to watch on screen.
Before Jake is taken away to be tried somewhere upstate, absolution is besieged by a fleet of wicked looking air crafts that terrorize the town and spit out long cable claws that snatch up some of the townspeople while there loved ones look on wide eyed and helpless. During the ensuing melee, Jake takes down one of the attacking ships with his bracelet which he finds out converts into a pretty lethal laser gun.
One of the people taken is the son of Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) an icy land baron (or something like that?) who immediately rounds up a posse of volunteers to track down a fleeing alien whose ship Jake shot down and rescuing their kidnapped kin. Because he possesses the only weapon that can really put the hurt on the enemy, Jake is unwittingly recruited into Dolarhyde’s motley group of avengers.
No stranger aliens or wearing a hat and cracking the whip for that matter Ford’s Dolarhyde is like an older version of Han Solo minus the charm and sense of humor. Despite really letting his irascible old grouch come through in this part Ford still manages to be charismatic and likable as the movie eventually sees him learn to take his inflated ego down a few pegs and be more empathetic to others. He and Daniel Craig worked really well together and it was especially fun to watch these two cinematic bulls lock horns before ultimately coming to like each other in the end.
With such high profile actors as Ford and Craig, one might suspect the two would end up stealing the spotlight but credit is do to the supporting cast for really managing to hold their own and in some cases display just as memorable performances. Olivia Wilde is equally cunning and beautiful as Ella Swenson, a survivor of an earlier alien attack who manages to penetrate Jake’s tough guy exterior and help him unravel the mystery of what happened to him while later revealing some bombshells of her own. Paul Dano is absolutely detestable as Woodrow’s son Percy, a spoiled puke bucket who rides the coattails of his father’s success and uses his influence to bully others and get his way. Jake is the one person in town who won’t put up with his nonsense and quickly let’s the younger man know that, painfully. Sam Rockwell gives a memorable performance as Doc, a geeky tavern owner who goes from questioning his place in such a rough and tough town to fighting aliens alongside Jake and Woodrow when he rises to the occasion after his wife is taken in the raid. And of course it would be remiss of me in lauding the supporting cast not to mention the aliens themselves. Imagine if one of the velociraptors from Jurassic park mated with the biggest, ugliest species of toad and these aliens are probably what would result. Fleet footed and frightening these nasty buggers are probably some of the best CG creatures I have seen to date and are utilized in some great moments guaranteed to make you jump.
With a fresh and fun concept, eye catching effects, engaging story, and great performances all around, “Cowboys and Aliens” ropes in your attention and levels you with its awesomeness like a bucking bronco. Raw hide!


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