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: Cowboys & Aliens (2011)  ( 8877 )

« #45 : March 02, 2017, 09:14:38 AM »

My own 10p contribution.

I've seen good men do bad things and bad men do good things.

Cowboys & Aliens is directed by John Favreau and collectively written by Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby and Steve Oedekerk. It stars Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Clancy Brown and Sam Rockwell. Music is scored by Harry Gregson-Williams and cinematography by Matthew Libatique.

It's 1873 in the Arizona Territory, and an unnamed loner (Daniel Craig) awakens in the desert bleeding from an injury, with no memory, and with a strange metal bracelet shackled to his wrist. Making his way to the nearby town of Absolution, he discovers his name, what happened to him and finds that soon, he, and the citizens of Absolution, must engage in a fight for friends and family against an alien race.

Silly title, it really is. More so because it has been proved to be misleading as to the content of the actual film. Oh there is cowboys and aliens in the film, and great fun at times it is to see two genres spliced into one big money backed movie. But the title does lend itself to an expectation of wall to wall froth, a world where tongues are in cheek and explosions surround a bunch of jovial Western characters as they face off against an alien foe. As anyone who has seen the film can attest, Cowboys and Aliens is anything but frothy. It proves to be an uneasy blend of genres, a task that director Favreau and the ream of writers involved in the project, don't fully complete. You have to wonder if the number of writers involved lost sight of a collective goal? Because the film at times comes off as a gnarly, grizzled machismo piece, taking its story seriously, only to then stop taking itself seriously to bring the no brain thrills for the popcorn crowd. It's no wonder that it has failed to find an audience since it's not sure how to find itself!

Money makes you soft.

However, a second viewing of the film can bring better rewards once armed with the knowledge of what type of film it is. There's much to enjoy, from a mostly agreeable cast to the excellent Western visuals; and from the well constructed action set pieces to the outrageousness of the premise, Favreau's film has plenty of guts, grandeur and gunnery to keep the undemanding entertained. The flaws remain (cliches, stereotypes, logic holes), and in fact the weak plot and reasoning for the alien motives is even more annoying second time around. But it's never dull and the visual effects are more charming than most other big budgeted blockbusters. That the effects are not swallowing the film whole is a big plus, it puts the human characterisations front and centre, where the likes of Craig, Ford (both mean and broody), Rockwell (excellent) and Brown (likewise) come to the fore to at least keep us interested in how it all pans out before the inevitable battle provides the answers. While from a red blooded guy point of view, more of the lovely Olivia Wilde instead of showy alien effects is fine by me, even if her character is pretty much a token one.

Second viewing brings better rewards, yet it's always going to struggle to find a fully committed fan base, but it's far from being the disaster some disappointed first time viewers proclaim it as. Not a great film for sure, but it is a good one. 7/10

Footnote: It scrubs up real well on Blu-ray, the work of Libatique comes shining through as the Western vistas please the eyes with their detail, while the low lighting for the interiors gives off a nice Wild West hue.

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