Cowboys and Aliens Review

There are films and there are movies. There are flicks, motion pictures, features, and what have you. Generally this distinction between film and movie is not one worth making, although I believe David Fincher does, but I’m not a good enough journalist to cite that. This distinction nevertheless applies if you want it to. You wouldn’t group Transformers and Casablanca together as comparable films. That would be ludicrous, but I’d love to see someone try. Cowboys and Aliens is a movies, a flick even. I’m assuming flick comes from the “flickering” of the image across the screen at twenty-four frames a second. With the existence of digital projectors I guess this is term that is starting to age, forgive my antiquated language. Which isn’t something you’ll have to forgive director Jon Faverau’s later foray into geek culture, because it doesn’t give you a chance. In Cowboys and Aliens very little feels old fashioned, be it the simple and direct script, the exquisitely preened and beautiful Olivia Wilde, or the alien’s laser based weaponry. What should feel old feels more like a facsimile. The only actor who attempts to put on an old west dialect or maybe a southern accent is Harrison Ford, well that might have just been the constant growl in his throat. Ford and Daniel Craig are the only two things, aside from the setting, that feel authentically western, and not like an anachronism. Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, Cowboys and Aliens works, and it is a lot of fun.

From the moment Daniel Craig’s amnesiac Jake Lonergan startles awake in the desert under a scorching sun, the audience knows this movie is playing it straight. The premise is ridiculous, borderline silly, but thanks to some gruff and earnest performances by Ford and Craig and some thrilling action sequences Cowboys maintains it’s serious tone.

Aliens have arrived in the southwest and begun to abduct the citizens of the dusty town of Absolution. Great name. When the survivors set out to rescue their people, Lonergan finds a chance to redeem himself for sins he can barely recall. What follows is a well paced thrill ride with some great digital effects and a few truly emotional scenes thrown in for good measure.

Faverau and the six credited writers, including Lost’s Damon Lindelof, have finely tuned the movie. The characters are given relatable problems to overcome and made human enough to make sure audience can get invested and even care about them. This is an ensemble cast movie, each character has his or her individual arc that will be resolved by a confrontation with the visitors from another world. Some will find courage, or the kindness in their hearts, or forgiveness. Each action sequence advances the plot nicely and there is no wasted time. It all leads to a climatic showdown that is equal parts exciting and emotional.

If you don’t ask too much of Cowboys and Aliens then you wouldn’t find much to complain about. It hits the right emotional and character notes and should excite with it’s plethora of explosions and hard hitting fisticuffs.