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Cowboys & Aliens movie poster

Cowboys & Aliens: Movie Review

Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Jon Favreau

Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Adam Beach, Sam Rockwell, Keith Carradine, Clancy Brown
Released by: Universal Pictures

In Short: It's a deadly serious business when aliens invade the western movie genre and try to take over the world, circa 1873. Good thing James Bond and Han Solo are there to protect us!

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Tough Hombres Take on Familiar Villains from Outer Space

Cowboy Jake Lonergan finds himself in a pretty serious situation as "Cowboys and Aliens" begins. He's not sure who or where he is as he awakens in the middle of the desert, but he soon finds out that it's 1873, he's a wanted gunslinger and thief, he’s wounded and most importantly — he's got a weird metallic device attached to his wrist, made of something stronger than anyone has ever seen on earth.

Lonergan soon also learns that creatures from another planet have landed nearby, and they are not the least bit friendly. As he and his fellow humans living in the dusty town of Absolution soon discover, the aliens (dubbed "demons" by those western folk) are hell bent on killing them off and taking over the planet as their own. Needless to say, the humans are not thrilled with that idea. And so the battle begins.

Lonergan, as portrayed by a stone-faced Daniel Craig, doesn't have an ounce of humor, nor does cattle baron Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), who rules the town with an iron fist. With those two toughs in the leads, this movie is a deadly serious western adventure, one that sticks with the tradition of cinematic hard-edged oaters, where characters get killed off right and left and there's little time for sadness or regret. So don't expect any tongue-in-cheek dialogue or pleasant asides. These cowboys are out to get those aliens, and there will be no smiling. Ever.

Olivia Wilde and Daniel Craig in Cowboys & Aliens A still from Cowboys & Aliens

Director Jon Favreau throws in a fair number of clichés from both the western and science fiction genres, and there are a few "Huh?" moments, too, where the explanations for an occurrence are less than satisfactory (especially when it comes to Ella, the character played by Olivia Wilde). But overall, his comic-book-based flick is a tense, fast-moving adventure, as our two heroes band together with Dolarhyde's crew, Lonergan's outlaw gang, a Native American tribe and anyone else who is willing risk his life in an all-out assault on the aliens.

Speaking of those aliens, they sure look like a lot of the scary aliens we've seen in other movies. Think "Alien," "Predator" and "District 9," to name just a few. And while the special effects that create them and their massive spaceship certainly look cool, we can't help but wonder why aliens always have the same basic design in so many films. Couldn't Favreau and company have come up with a new and different look for their creatures from outer space? Apparently not.


Reviewed by Jenny Peters


(Updated: 07/29/11 CT)

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