Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review of Cowboys & Aliens

Daniel Craig in DreamWorks Pictures' 'Cowboys & Aliens.'
Daniel Craig as Jake Lonergan in "Cowboys & Aliens"

Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood
"Cowboys & Aliens" isn't going to win an Oscar for best picture, but if you enjoy westerns or action movies, you'll like this one.  Daniel Craig channels Clint Eastwood to give us a modern version of the old-fashioned cowboy outlaw with a chance at redemption.  It's a risky movie melding the western with science fiction.  But the melding of the two genres is fun and "Cowboys & Aliens" is mostly a hit with a little bit of a miss.  I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the movie the most as it had that feel of the best of spaghetti westerns like "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly."

The movie starts with a close-up of Craig, beat up, dirty and bloody while still managing to look hot.  He's shoeless and confused, clearly unable to recall why he's in the desert or why he has a metal bracelet on.  The mystery of who he is, where he comes from and why he has the strange but powerful metal bracelet is revealed slowly.  And while the aliens make appearances on screen in wasp-like metal flying machines, the true nature of the aliens and their reason for being on Earth is also revealed bit by bit.

Daniel Craig is the stand out and he stays true to his stoic character throughout.  Harrison Ford is the weak link of the cast.  He plays Colonel Dolarhyde (a rancher - get it - dollar-hide), a grumpy, hard-ass former soldier who now is the big-cheese in town rancher.  Ford starts out strong but can't help but curl his lip from time-to-time in a Han Solo-esque sneer and by the end he's playing it sappy.

Daniel Craig's not afraid to get gritty in his role.  In one of the most bad-ass scenes ever, Craig's character beats a man to death with his bare hands, the blood splattering all over him.  He doesn't even wipe the blood splatters off his face as he takes the boots off the dead guy and puts them on.  Stone cold bad ass.  Next to Craig, Ford looks like he's uncomfortable in his skin as he struggles to portray a less than desirable character.  He ends up resorting to a mix of Indiana Jones and Han Solo, a cartoonish cliche.

But back to the good news.  The special effects are top notch.  One of my beefs with the later Star Wars movies is that the CGI takes over and the acting becomes stilted and ineffectual (George Lucas clearly preferring to work with computers over people).  In Cowboys & Aliens there are no lines of thousands of CGI aliens marching across the screen.  Instead they did a great job of interspersing the CGI aliens amongst the sagebrush, sand and rock to make it more lifelike.  There's plenty of hand-to-hand combat with the bad guys oozing gooey green blood.

If you enjoy a gritty western or action movie, you'll enjoy this offering.

Some of you may know that I have a particular interest in this movie because I have a work in progress that was originally titled "Cowboys & Aliens" (before I saw the trailer for this movie!).  See my previous blog post on the WIP here.  I was glad to see that the movie has nothing in common with my forthcoming novel except some aliens (and mine are very different).

If you've seen "Cowboys & Aliens," let us know what you think by posting a comment below or on my Facebook page.

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