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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » September 30, 2011
Film review
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Cowboys & Aliens
September 30, 2011   
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Jon Favreau (Iron Man series) has made an attempt to create a rare hybrid: a film that blends the Western and science-fiction genres. Michael Crichton tried that once in his Westworld from 1973 starring Yul Brynner in a memorable role as a robot gunman on a killing spree in a futuristic theme park. Favreau’s movie is about an attack by aliens who choose the Wild West as the starting point for a rapid colonization of the Earth. They are after gold, which is also valuable in their world. The humans (and not only humans…) suddenly have to put their conflicts behind them and stand united if they want to survive.

It is 1873 in Arizona. Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig—Munich, Road to Perdition, James Bond movies) wakes up in a desert with no recollection of how he got there, what happened to him and who he is. All he knows is that he is wounded, has a strange, metal bracelet on his left arm, and that the people he meets are aggressive and hostile towards him. The only exception is Meacham (Clancy Brown—The Shawshank Redemption, The Highlander), a preacher who tends to the stranger’s wounds in a small town bearing the symbolic name of Absolution. The town is not exactly a peaceful haven. It ruled by Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford—Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Witness), the local cattle baron who either intimidates or bribes everyone around him. That includes Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine—The Duellists, Southern Comfort—after a long absence from the silver screen), who recognizes Lonergan as a man wanted for rape and murder. At this point, Lonergan seems doomed, but before humans are able to square accounts, Absolution is raided by spaceships whose crews make the purpose of their visit perfectly clear. They either annihilate the townsfolk or snare them with lasso-like ropes and drag them into their spacecraft. Resistance seems futile, as the alien technology is way more advanced than the primitive Colts and Winchesters the locals carry on them. But then the bracelet on Lonergan’s arm turns out to be a firearm of equal power to the aliens’ weapons. From a criminal with one foot in the gallows, in the blink of an eye Lonergan turns into a valuable ally in the uneven struggle with the extraterrestrial invaders. The humans’ other asset is the mysterious Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde—House M.D., The Next Three Days) whose combat skills suggest that her attractive exterior hides unearthly powers.

The obvious magnet expected to draw viewers to Cowboys & Aliens was the stellar cast. The very idea of James Bond, Indiana Jones (or Han Solo if you like) and Thirteen from the Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital joining forces to face a threat from outer space was enough to fill theaters. The cast also includes Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile) and Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood).

Cowboys & Aliens could have easily gravitated towards pastiche, but the director approached the subject straight-faced. You might argue that the characters could use a degree of self-depreciating humor, but even without that the movie makes for an easy and harmless two hours of viewing.
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