Now this is a summer movie with a unique premise that's not only out there, but works so well that it makes me say "That was BAD ASS." Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the next heavyweight action film of the summer: Cowboys & Aliens.
Okay let's get the obvious out of the way: YES, cowboys and aliens in the same movie sounds like an absurd premise that would only exist in the mind of adolescent boy. And yet, this child-like premise is immediately forgotten when you watch surprisingly deep characters struggle through a dangerous situation with overwhelming odds against them. And this film can get DARK in both terms of the fights happening on screen as well as the gravity of the situation. Instead of some silly-mindless action, you get a film that will make you grow a beard sitting through its 2-hour run time (which flies by fast). And don't worry ladies, you get plenty of eye candy too.
The film stars Daniel Craig (flawlessly using his American accent) as Jake Lonergan, a cowboy stranded in the middle of the Wild West with only a strangle bracelet on his wrist and no recollection of who he is or how he got there. After a series of dodging mishaps in the nearby town of Absolution, he is corned by Elle (played by Olivia Wilde) and hard-as-nails rancher Han Solo, I mean Colonel Dolarhyde (played by Harrison Ford). An alien invasion then commences and lays waste to Absolution while abducting several of its citizens. Lonergan must then join forces with Dolarhyde and the strange woman to stop the alien threat and discover who he really is.
The first twenty minutes of the film play like any Westerner you've seen: Craig plays the gruff loner invoking the spirit of Eastwood, Harrison Ford plays the gruff boss-man of a bunch of thugs, and the usual Western archetypes are present throughout the cast. It's when the alien invasion begins that these archetypes are immediately thrown out the window and you find surprisingly deep characters. Lonergan is a wanted man with a brutal past but the allure of a lost love drives him to learn more about her fate. Harrison Ford is playing the best we've seen him in years (yes even better than Indiana Jones) as a former colonel who has seen the horrors of war and he uses his gruff demeanor to inspire confidence in lesser men. Both Craig and Ford bring their A game to this film as they pull of convincingly deep cowboys.
The rest of the cast turns in solid performances. The gorgeous Olivia Wilde plays a mysterious woman who knows more than she's telling, but you can't resist caring about her. Sam Worthington plays a meek bar tender out to find his abducted wife and Noah Ringer plays a scared boy searching for his grandfather. And yes, these two minor side characters develop their arcs as boys become men. Everyone else does a great job in this setting as well. Okay, so now I've praised the story and the deep characters, but is the action any good?
Oh. Hell. Yes. The fist fights between humans are brutal and visceral. Horseback chase scenes are made more awesome with alien ships hunting the heroes down. And the aliens? Looking damn fine. The computer generated images aren't glaringly obvious here with the aliens looking bulky, hideous, and monstrous. They are the perfect band of bad guys. And unlike other alien invasion films, you get to see humans get into vicious fights with the extraterrestrials. Limbs are blown off, Guns blow holes into alien bodies. Aliens eat humans right in front of their comrades. All of it is exceptionally well-done and reminds you that this is most definitely NOT a kids movie (PG-13 rating be damned).
The best part? The fights mean something. You care what happens to Lonerman, Dolarhyde, Elle, Doc, and Emmett. When characters die, the persons close to them EMOTE. The characters who die are characters YOU grow attached to. You WANT their deaths avenged. You are made known in none-uncertain-terms that the situation is dire. And that's what elevates Cowboys & Aliens from a merely good film to a GREAT film.
Unique action movies are hard to come by and big budget films with great characters are harder still to find. Cowboys & Aliens finds a way to merge the Western and Alien Invasion genres into something fun, entertaining, and meaningful. Characters don't get any deeper and action doesn't get any harder than you'll find here. A fantastic summer movie that I highly recommend everyone to check out in theaters.
SEE IN THEATERS!