Movie Review - Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens contains just that... Cowboys & Aliens. Based upon the graphic novel of the same name by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, it is an action adventure film with some very big name talent involved. Directed by Jon Favreau, produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg and with a screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman it can't possibly be bad... can it?

Well, no, it's not bad. Ultimately it is a fun action film with a great ensemble cast and some really eye popping special effects supplied by Industrial Light and Magic. As far as popcorn movies go, Cowboys & Aliens is a fun romp with a bunch of eye candy for the women (Daniel Craig) and even more for the men (Olivia Wilde and explosions aplenty).

The cast is massive and filled with some fantastic performances. Sam Rockwell shines as inn-keeper Doc (was there ever any doubt), Clancy Brown delivers as Preacher-man Meacham and Paul Dano steals every scene that he is in as the spoiled son of Harrison Ford's character. Sadly the main players are nowhere near as impressive. Daniel Craig puts in an uninspiring performance as the bandit-come-good, Jake Lonergan. His character never seems to progress out of anything bar his lingering case of amnesia. Olivia Wilde shows that she is pretty, yet not much else. Her character really didn't add much to the story and left more open questions than she managed to answer. She is capable of so much more but didn't quite manage to inspire any sort of emotion, even during what should have been the most emotional scene in the entire film. Then there is Harrison Ford who plays a great version of Harrison Ford... One other mention is young Noah Ringer who plays the goggly eyed Emmett Taggart, grandson of the town Sheriff. I hate to bag out a young actor... so I won't...

Cinematically, the vast open plains of the wild west just weren't captured. The Arizona landscape felt small and nowhere near as expansive as in films such as Unforgiven or The Searchers. Perhaps this was a conscious decision in order to showcase the insignificance of humans in opposition to a galaxy faring alien race. If this was the case, it wasn't explored. A number of lulls throughout the film felt as though they were out of place and thrust upon the viewer in order to prove how complex the characters are. This slowed the pace of the film without actually making the film any more in depth.

I felt as though the portrayal of the white settlers as ants in comparison to the technologically advanced aliens was a great nod towards the way in which the Native Americans must have felt when confronted by white settlers. This was an area of cohesion that brought all of the characters together through a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" motif and was also inspiring from a humanitarian perspective.

All of my complaints stem from my high hopes for the film. As I said previously, this is an enjoyable movie with a fantastically original premise. I was just surprised that this film is only enjoyable and not as brilliant as it could, and should, have been. With such a great story, a brilliant cast and some of the most experienced and successful crew attached it just goes to show that a great movie is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Cowboys & Aliens opens nationwide in Australia on Thursday the 4th of August.


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