There’s oil and water, there’s chalk and cheese and there’s Cowboys and Aliens? On paper it sounds like a mad idea and it is, well it should be.
Ironman director John Favreau helms the film and has an impressive cast to work with. Harrison Ford plays Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde – an immoral, rich and powerful cattleman. Sam Rockwell stars as Doc – a saloon owner and Olivia Wilde stars as Ella Swenson – a mysterious traveller.
But the ace in Favreau’s felt cowboy hat is the formidable Daniel Craig, who plays the lead Jake Lonergan – an outlaw with amnesia. The great thing about Cowboys & Aliens is that Favreau immediately recognises what he has at his disposal.
The first shot is an extreme close up of Craig’s craggy face out, covered in scars, trickles of sweat dripping off his brow. His first action of the film is Craig’s Lonergan character violently dispatching a posse. The dialogue is minimal.
Craig does a great job of invoking the spirit of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Man with No Name’. The enigma behind his and Wilde’s character drive the first half of the film. Wilde does a good job of creating intrigue, Craig does better. His constant lemon sucking facial expressions give little away to create enough suspense to give John Carpenter a heart attack, but reveal his character’s deep rooted pain and anguish when it is required. In fact the cast as a whole is the best thing about this film.
The cowboy part is done well; the cliché’s are subtle enough to make them enjoyable. The greasy oil runs smoothly but then comes the introduction of the water. The first introduction of the aliens is really well done. There’s a Cloverfield element to it with the disorientating camera work.
The problems begin to arise once Favreau has to combine the two elements. He tries to get a good blend but he seems to settle for the two genre’s elements as their own entities and relies on a clash between the two. Despite this there is fusion in parts, it just would have been nice to have seen the director push the boundaries more, surely with a film titled Cowboys & Aliens that is the objective?
The biggest bug bear of the film is Favreau’s Ironman syndrome. He does a good job of building the story slowly, but almost blows it on numerous occasions with his overly elaborate action sequences. Especially the climax where it is just Craig shooting everything in sight whilst explosions take place around him, meanwhile Harrison Ford has his moment in the sun (which are surprisingly few and far between in this film) as he tackles the aliens outside the spaceship.
In fact the scene where Craig’s character has an interaction with his old gang, Ford doesn’t say anything. This is Craig’s film, he’s the one who gets to shoot aliens (and people), he’s the conflicted anti-hero, he’s the one with the magic bracelet, he gets to kiss the girl and most significantly he is the one who gets to ride off into the sunset. Oh and yeah his faux American accent isn’t bad either.