When Worlds Collide
If cowboys in the Old West were threatened by aliens from Outer Space, who would win? Cowboys & Aliens, a rip-roaring action movie starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford imagines what might happen in such a farfetched confrontation. And, believe me, it’s not a pretty sight. But the film is great fun to watch! Mystery, suspense, sci-fi shenanigans, gunplay and horsemanship fill the screen in one of this summer’s most entertaining offerings.
However, don’t expect anything like 3:10 to Yuma or The Day the Earth Stood Still. This movie is in a class by itself. Yes, there are clichés from both western and sci-fi movies included here, but they seem to enhance the movie rather than detract from its outrageous story. What’s most impressive involves the way all the actors take their roles so seriously. In fact, I think Craig (Quantum of Solace) delivers his best performance ever as a man who wakes up in a godforsaken desert with a weird bracelet on one arm and has no idea who or where he is. Ford (Morning Glory) also excels in the role of a rough-and-tough old guy who takes no guff from anyone, especially a stranger. And beautiful Olivia Wilde (from TV’s House) adds a haunting presence to the proceedings. Among the supporting cast, Adam Beach (Flags of Our Fathers), Sam Rockwell (Conviction), and Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) stand out as Ford’s loyal follower, a distressed bartender, and Ford’s rambunctious son, respectively.
Searching for answers to his identity, Jake (Craig) arrives in town just in time to witness Percy (Dano) showing off with his gun and bad manners. While they are both in custody, all hell breaks loose outside. When Jake tries to take off his strange bracelet, he discovers its unusual power. Soon he’s out with the townspeople fighting for their lives during the explosive alien attacks. Not surprisingly, Woodrow (Ford) begrudgingly accepts Jake’s help because of his powerful wrist gadget.
The rest of the film deals primarily with humans battling aliens, but during some of these sequences I began to think the title should be Cowboys, Indians & Aliens, for there’s nothing better to unite warring factions than a common enemy. Beach’s character serves as a courageous catalyst for that part of the flick.
Fortunately, along the way, the film also answers four important questions that kept worrying me.
Who is Jake and where did he come from?
How did that bracelet get on his wrist?
Why does a mysterious woman (Wilde) follow Jake wherever he goes?
What do the aliens want?
Although some dark scenes make it difficult to see what’s happening, Cowboys & Aliens -- inspired by the comic book of the same name -- offers a special effects extravaganza in its amazing sci-fi sequences. Whether flying through the air or tromping over the ground, those monstrous aliens gave me a “shock and awe” reaction.
So who wins? My lips are sealed. You’ll just have to see Cowboys & Aliens to find out. Still, if you make a guess, I'm sure you'll be right.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated "PG-13" for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.)
NOTE: Listen to actor Brendan Wayne (John Wayne’s grandson) talk about his experiences during the filming of Cowboys & Indians by clicking here.