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Movie Reviews

Cowboys and Aliens



Released: 29th July 2011

Director: John Favreau

Stars: Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde

Certificate: 12

Reviewer: Luke Walkley

Cowboys and Aliens – two words that on their own, are common topics for numerous films past, present and future. However, how could a film combining the two possibly hope to pull off the feat?

Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig star as the films leads. Ford is the rich business man, Woodrow Dolarhyde, who controls most of the goings on in the town. Craig plays Jake Lonergan, who after waking up with a mysterious bracelet on his wrist, is unaware of his past or even his name. Jake quickly earns a name for himself by squaring up to Dolarhyde’s unruly son Percy (Paul Dano) and draws the attention of the towns Sheriff (Kieth Carradine) and Ella(Olivia Wilde) A series of unexplained events, Alien encounters and abductions means that the townspeople must unite in the hopes of saving their loved ones, taken from them by the mysterious creatures.

The answer to the questions posed by the strange concept, seemingly lied in the strong casting. Ford is Hollywood royalty with Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Blade Runner in his back catalogue, while Craig has earned a name for himself as the most famous movie spy, James Bond. While the supporting cast consisting of Olivia Wilde as well as Sam Rockwell who plays Doc, a man who is determined to rescue his wife from her alien captors. The expected high standard of acting is ever present and ironically this is the films major downfall.

The cast are too good for a movie like this. The script is annoyingly weak and as such causes the film to collapse from the offset. The lack of interesting dialogue and character depth is frustrating to bear witness to. Sure we see flashbacks of Jake’s (Criag) partner every now and then but thats pretty much it. This is also the cause of annoyance when it comes to the characters personalities. Ford is supposed to be a hard-ass cattle rancher who runs the town and we see evidence to suggest this early on. Jake is apparently responsible for stealing Dolarhydes (Ford) gold in a previous job, however they suddenly becomes best of friends and the conflict between the two is never really there. It’s a shame to see as the back and forth between the two could have provided many more humorous moments and in the later stages of the film, a lot more sentiment.

Cowboys and Aliens NEEDED something major to set it apart from the other summer releases. Super 8 had the fantastic performances of its young cast mixed with dazzling effects and Rise of the Planet of the Apes was mesmerizing thanks to the effects and the well balanced story. However, Cowboys and Aliens lacks anything that is remotely outstanding. Special Effects aren’t awful but the same quality visuals have been seen in hundreds of films. The aliens aren’t as horrifyingly beautiful as Abrams creation in Super 8 and the cowboys… well they’re not even gunslinging cowboys! Where’s the fun in that? Not even one showdown in the middle of a street with spinning revolvers…

An area that is often taken for granted when watching a movie, is the sound mixing and editing (which sound effects fit where etc) However, it’s one of the most noticeable areas of Cowboys and Aliens and not for good reasons. The first and most obvious abuse is Jake’s first fight, cornered by some highwaymen, he gets into a brawl. The resulting punches sound, almost ironically, like they jumped out of an early Bond film. The only way to describe them would be to use the comic book term ‘kapow’. Also when drinking a shot you don’t ‘glug’ it, you throw it back like the cowboy you always wanted to be, but no, apparently Jake likes to sip and savour the shot of whiskey he just chucked back, at least thats what the sound gurus would make you think. I’m aware this is a small point but its these kind of short-comings that really affect the overall experience Cowboys and Aliens tries to deliver.

Several scenes are bewildering to the viewer, for some reason a hummingbird alien makes several appearances to Jake as if in a drug induced state of hallucination. As if its unsure as to what the audience wants to see more of, the film jumps from genre to genre, idea to idea.

Cowboys and Aliens could have worked, it had the vast but lacked the ideas and ingenuity needed to create a truly immersive journey. It’s not confident enough to mix the two genres in a more daring way and so from scene to scene it changes between the two. Cowboys and Aliens is one of the most disappointing films this summer and while that may not be awful considering the high quality of the other releases, it would struggle against even the most mediocre action, fantasy, comedy or however you would care to class it.

Cowboys and Aliens falls of the horse early on and when it attempts to recover, the horse has been abducted and the audience is instead left with a mess consisting of a Harrison Ford, some glowing lights a bracelet and a hummingbird. Oh yeah! they manage to get some Indians in there aswell…

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