Friday 23 December 2011

Today's Review: Cowboys & Aliens

In the realm of nerdery, there are several warring factions. Ninjas, pirates, zombies, cowboys, aliens, each one having their case put forward by adamant geeks, determined to prove their favourite is best. But now we have a Hollywood movie that will settle the score between two: Cowboys & Aliens.

This movie follows a mysterious cowboy played by Daniel Craig, who wakes up in the middle of nowhere with no memory and a strange device strapped to his wrist. Finding refuge in the saloon of a nearby town, he stirs up some trouble with the locals, but that's nothing compared to that evening when aliens show up and abduct the townspeople. With the cowboy determined to find out about his past, and the town's remaning inhabitants intent on getting revenge and bringing their people back, a posse is formed to track down the aliens.

Cowboys & Aliens is a big budget movie. There are guns, explosions, menacing aliens, and it all looks pretty damn good. It's what a B-movie would look like if it was polished up to blockbuster standard. There's character progression, attention to detail, good special effects. It's especially nice to see the amount of effort put into the set pieces and costumes of the old west, which a regular B-movie would most likely skip over.

Surprisingly, Daniel Craig makes a pretty good cowboy. He's got the accent down well, which was my biggest concern, and his presence really makes him stand out amongst the others. Harrison Ford turns in a good performance too, with some clear character progression from grizzled town overlord to alien war hero. The casting is pretty good all round, in fact, and everyone gives it their all throughout. Olivia Wilde's character is a little weird, and seems a bit unnecessary, but she helps to hurry the narrative along so that no lengthy explanations are needed.

Unfortunately, the movie can drag on a bit. Perhaps it's because I was watching the extended director's cut, but the actual hunt for the aliens does become a bit stale, just watching the posse ride through the desert. Still, I was entertained throughout. Even if the middle of the movie has little in the way of action, there's plenty packed into the final minutes.

While certainly not a perfect movie, Cowboys & Aliens is a great effort at blending genres, that doesn't take itself too seriously, but also doesn't fall into the trap of being too ridiculous. It's a sci-fi western mashup the likes of which I've never seen before.

My rating: 4/5

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