Cowboys and Aliens

Jon Favreau’s entertaining genre hybrid Cowboys and Aliens casts Daniel Craig as an amnesiac fast-drawing westerner (come on, Errol Flynn also rode the Old West) who comes equipped with a mysterious device on his arm.  Dang if he doesn’t know where he got it.  Harrison Ford is the town boss who’s a bit miffed that his wastrel son (Paul Dano) has been given a very public shellacking by Craig—and has subsequently been arrested for shooting a deputy.  Meanwhile, the lovely Olivia Wilde hovers in the background as a very mysterious young woman–and then the aliens come attacking.  Craig’s device proves very useful in repelling the attack, but not before the aliens take some very high-profile hostages including Dano and Sheriff Keith Carradine.  After all the (somewhat negative) hype, I’m pleased to say the movie plays it fairly straight.  The opening scenes convey a dusty flavor and an air of foreboding, while the subsequent melding of genres (complete with Indians and cowboys forging a tentative truce to fight a common enemy—albeit an indestructible enemy with a seemingly impregnable spaceship) provide the opportunity for several exciting, well-staged action sequences. Ford does good work as the tyrannical rancher with heretofore unseen soft spots, while Craig is suitably heroic and tortured as the man with a past—that he can’t recall.  Sam Rockwell does his customary good work as a put-upon townsperson but Paul Dano doesn’t impress as Ford’s son–and it would be nice to see more of Carradine—his presence lends a quiet authority to the proceedings.  As for the busy Miss Wilde, her role is in many ways the key role, and she mostly pulls it off (no pun intended).  Worth the ride.