COWBOYS & ALIENS
Directed by Jon Favreau
"Cowboys & Aliens" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.
While I came for the aliens, I have to admit that I stayed for the cowboys. This movie belongs to Daniel Craig. He exudes cool in every frame of the film and perfectly nails the 'stranger with no name' from classic Westerns. Not only does he have the look of Steve McQueen or Paul Newman, but he brings the grittiness to "Cowboys & Aliens" that he brought to James Bond. His fights are brutal, bloody, and they will make you cringe. You start to think Craig might actually be getting beaten up.
Craig is well-teamed with Harrison Ford. While seeing Indiana Jones teamed with James Bond on the big screen is enough to make a geek swoon, the two make you forget their iconic characters and you start seeing just Dolarhyde and Lonergan. Ford fans might be disappointed that he doesn't get as much screen time as Craig, but Ford makes up for quantity with quality. He has some great scenes with Noah Ringer as Emmett Taggart and Adam Beach as Nat Colorado. One scene where he tells a story from his youth to Emmett is arguably one of the more memorable scenes in Ford's recent career. It's surprising to see Harrison Ford willing to share the spotlight with Daniel Craig, but in the end they both come out looking better for it.
I have to give credit to Favreau and writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof – they handled this large ensemble cast well. Every character on the screen gets some moment to shine and win audiences over. Sam Rockwell gets to provide a lot of comic relief as Doc and he brings much needed laughs whenever the story gets too serious. I was also really impressed by Paul Dano as Percy Dolarhyde. He's great at playing the spoiled son of Woodrow and he and Craig are hilarious in every single scene they have together. Dano wasn't on my radar screen before this movie, but he is now. Clancy Brown, Adam Beach, Olivia Wilde, Noah Ringer, and Walton Goggins are all memorable, too.
As far as the aliens go, we actually don't see a lot of them in the movie. When we do see them, their design is pretty good, but you won't see people dressed as them at next year's San Diego Comic-Con. They don't have a landmark design like a Giger Alien or a Winston Predator. That being said, they do the job of providing a few scares here and there and they are lethal and powerful without being invincible. And their motivations for being are Earth are interesting, too. One of my first questions about this movie was how the creators were going to make it believable that a bunch of primitive cowboys could go toe to claw with space-faring aliens, and they do manage to succeed.
On a final note, the score by Harry Gregson-Williams is pitch perfect and hits the right notes as far as a Western feel mixed with epic orchestral sounds. It's one of the better scores of the summer.
What Didn't Work:
There's also one minor, nitpicky plot point that bugged me well after the movie was over. The heroes discover something in the New Mexico desert that simply shouldn't be there. I don't want to spoil it here, but it's obvious that the aliens put it there. How and why is never really explained. It seemed to be there simply to make an interesting visual.
The Bottom Line: