Cowboys & Aliens attempts to take us back to the days when Westerns were epic movies. Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) is a gunslinger with a price on his head, but he wakes up with no memory of his past and a strange device attached to his wrist. Ella (Olivia Wilde) is the mysterious woman with a gun on her hip who hints she knows what happened to him. Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) is the cattleman who acts like he owns the town and has no compunction about leading a gang of toughs to spring his troublemaking son from jail. These three collide when flying objects devastate the town and make off with a number of the townsfolk.
We’re in the know that these are aliens, but the old West characters have to grasp their way to figuring out how to get their people back from these “demons.” What helps is the device on Jake’s wrist is a piece of technology that gives them a fighting chance. Along with Ella’s secret knowledge and Doharhyde’s unflagging determination, they track down the aliens on horseback, guns ready to take on them and their technology.
Cowboys & Aliens may not be a great movie, but it certainly is worth watching. I enjoyed Daniel Craig’s gunslinging and Harrison Ford’s transition from mad arrogance to world-weariness. We’re treated to actors actually riding on horseback, Clancy Brown (the sergeant in Starship Troopers) as the crusty preacher, and Apache Indians on the warpath. A weak point is that Dolarhyde’s son isn’t worth rescuing. And contrary to rumor, Olivia Wilde does not appear naked -- just the typical view of her bare upper back. But it’s a successful melding of the Western with science fiction.
P.S. When 43% of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes likes a movie, but 65% of the audience likes it, you might wonder what’s going on. As far as I can tell, some reviewers flat out don’t like Westerns. They seem to be disappointed that the movie did not lampoon the genre. But the director Jon Favreau treated the genre with respect.
P.P.S Source Code is now out on rental. See my review on this excellent movie.