Spoiler Alert – This Post May Give Things Away
The Set Up
It is the Wild West of America in the mid 1870s, a small remote town with all the usual clichés of the classic cowboy films of the 1940s, 50s and 60s – it wouldn’t be a true homage to the classic Westerns without these familiar characters – the straight-laced bartender, the egotistical land-owner turning the screw on the population (Harrison Ford), the weak lawmen.. and a lone gunslinger with no memory of how he got there (Daniel Craig). And he’s got a strange device wrapped around his arm.
Then suddenly a mysterious flying object appears and snatches people away. Not with some fancy tractor beam.. but with a grappling arm like a big one of those things you get at the amusement arcades which can never pick up anything, except these actually worked. And Craig’s arm device turns out to be very cool indeed.
Yes, Cowboys & Aliens is completely ridiculous. I absolutely loved it. It could easily have been a terrible, terrible film yet it carries itself well. It takes itself seriously in a deadpan style, shot and acted like a serious film but with a plot so crazy the tongue was clearly firmly in cheek. You could tell they were all having fun with it. And they managed to do it without the corny, cheesey approach or the wink or knowing look to camera – this just made it even better.
It’s shot like a traditional Western yet with the modern realism effects of something like District 9. This is part of what makes it so watchable.
Okay so the plot isn’t much to shout about, if you’ve seen any good guys vs bad guys sci fi or Western film you can guess the result. I’ve seen a lot of people pan the film based on the plot. They’re missing the point. A film like this, the point is to go along with it and have a good time, enjoy the journey, watch cowboys being invaded by aliens and the resulting dialogue and shoot-em-ups, because there’s not much better in cinema than cowboys delivering one-liners and nonchalantly shooting things. That’s why Firefly worked so well.
I mean look! Cowboys! And aliens!
Daniel Craig was basically doing an 1870s version of his James Bond. It sort of worked though so perhaps that says more about his version of Bond being like a cowboy rather than the reverse? Harrison Ford seemed to be enjoying himself most of all. Paul Dano was basically playing the same character he played in There Will Be Blood. Let’s be clear – nobody was really stretching themselves here. Fair to say that Ford and Craig have the most-developed characters, all the bit part players are just that and you don’t really what happens with them. And then there’s the love interest angle.. except he has flashbacks to another woman. All fairly predictable. The journey is fun though.
Again, none of this is really the point. It’s just a fun film that you shouldn’t spent a lot of time thinking about. Watch, enjoy, move on.