Film Review: Cowsboys & Aliens

I love Cowboys & Aliens because I love how it instantly conjures up this imagery in your head of a slapstick parody. An idea that deserves to be rooted in Monty Python logic. And I love how you just know that the impressive cast (Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde and Harrison Ford) signed on not by being sold the story, but simply by being told the title.

And what’s even better is that for all the prejudiced thoughts that any film attempting to juxtaposition cowboys and aliens has to be a comedy you may start with, the film’s big twist, it’s cleverest move, is that it’s not. It’s a serious film using sensible ideas and yet, until you see it laid out in front of you, it’s just too hard to accept.

But why is this such a difficult concept? I liken it to the argument I once heard attempting to disprove the existence of ghosts. “If they were real where are all the sheep ghosts and cow ghosts? Why do people never claim their house is haunted by a long lost pig?” and it’s the same with Cowboys & Aliens. Because anything travelling from outer space has to be technologically advanced, greater than we are now, forward of us, it seems impossible to accept that they may exist in a time previous. The technology gap is so vast that you can’t believe that cowboys, who rode horses, spat tobacco, and who danced to the rhythm of gunfire ever had to worry about little green men from outer space.

Gunfire & Dancing - Cowboys & Aliens

In fact, for all the conspiracies about government cover ups, the greatest argument against Aliens visiting planet Earth is this: they never crop up in the history books!

But back to the movie…

Aside from its brilliantly descriptive and conflicting title, as a movie it’s actually really rather good. The story is a bit shallow in places and a bit happily conclusive to be believable at times. There are just a few times when you feel that the movie has boxed itself into a corner, that the simplicity of a pistol and horse is too weak to acceptably fight a plasma gun from Mars (so to speak) and so, to get around this they just bend, break or ignore a few rules and while it leaves a lot of unanswered questions and does slightly lower the overall tone of the film, it never really destroys it. You just feel let down rather than lied to.

And I think this is because whatever issues the plot may have they films production is stunning. The CGI work on the aliens looks modern and never felt dated, the aliens appearing clever in design and removed enough from cliché or stereotype to feel fresh, but at the same time borrowing enough sinister elements to pack a anxious fear into you when needed. It’s not hide behind the sofa terror, it’s not remotely scary, but it will get your heart racing just enough when it needs to.

Horses and Flying Machines - Cowboys & Aliens

Further to the stunning guests, the feel of the film just fits as well. The “wild west” of America is brought to life in a way that feels Hollywood. Everything is overly saturated in tone, the sky just too blue, the sand just too burnt, but rather than destroy the film it works perfectly, and just adds to the sense of how out of place and incomprehensible the idea of aliens attacking cowboys is.

I do, however, have a bit of an issue with the cast. Olivia Wilde, who I naturally adore, comes across as slightly weak and miscast. She just looks a little bit too delicate at times and feels at odds with the harshness of both the environment and company that surrounds her. Daniel Craig, brings Bond to the screen after he has been lying on a beach for a few months. And the least said about his American accent the better. While Harrison Ford really steals the show though, in both a good and bad way. He oozes the class and maturity he has, but also overshadows everything and there were times when I honestly felt that he was too big a star for the film. Even as the film progresses and the seriousness of the plot becomes stronger, you still can’t quite feel comfortable seeing Ford on screen in a film that somehow you constantly expect to try to make you laugh, to be a sketch.

Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig & Olivia Wilde - Cowboys & Aliens

I really like Cowboys & Aliens because at it’s heart is a simple good versus evil tale set in a world that nobody, for whatever reason, has had the foresight to do. There are problems with the movie, but somehow they actually combine together to create a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable film. It constantly keeps you guessing, and never lingers on a question long enough to bore you, or lead you by the hand into an answer you predicted a long time ago. It simply shows you a tale of survival set in a world that is obvious but unexpected.

Cowboys & Aliens is one of those films that you will snigger at the thought of but enjoy the product provided. It’s the type of film that is a little surprise waiting to be watched, you just need to make sure the gap between viewings is about the same as the technological gap between the Cowboys and the Aliens.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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