COWBOYS & ALIENS (2011)
|Cowboys & Aliens, Bond & Jones, how can this go wrong? Answer: it can't.|
In one of the more pivotal moments of the film (which I won't give away--midnight showing at all, I'm actually being responsibly spoil free tonight), the mysterious Olivia Wilde grabs the cold, battle-hardened Daniel Craig by the arm and tells him the only way he can defeat the aliens is if he shuts off his brain. And, in many ways, that's really the only way to go into this movie. With an empty brain ready for some action. I'm not trying to downplay the movie in the slightest--on the contrary, I consider it a compliment. It was the best mindless, exciting, and all-out-fucking fun adventure film I've seen in recent history. Say what you want about your Casablancas and Gone With The Winds, at the end of the day there is really nothing better than a good "bad movie". You know what I'm talking about. Paint-by-numbers character arcs, snappy one-liners, and excessive, explosion action. The difference between this and less thrilling bad "bad movies" like Priest? You don't feel stupid for having seen this movie. Maybe you don't come out learning any life lesson besides how to kill creepy ass aliens, but you don't leave the theater feeling like you just sat through two hours of the director talking smack about you and your mother. In fact, if you're like me, you come out gearing up to see it again. On to the movie.
|Image from daemonsmovies.com|
The best part about this movie? It's exactly what you expect it to be. A homage to two different genres--old westerns and alien horror movies. As for the old western bit, they really pulled out all the stops. We've got your typical lone wolf John Wayne-type hero, the lassie dog that stands by his side, the kid from True Grit, Tonto from The Lone Ranger, the sherif, the barman, the candlestick maker. Anyone and everyone you'd every expect from a cowboy movie they piled up into this film.
And, sure, maybe some of it didn't pay off 100%. Maybe they could've done without the whole "getting stoned with the Indians" bit. But considering the fact that it was such a campy homage and clearly not taking itself too seriously, you couldn't help but just keep along for the ride. Overall, I think their crowning achievement in the way of westerns had to go to the fact that they were able to make a real hero out of Daniel Craig's Jake Lonergan. It's all in the ending, really, and they could've gone completely Hollywood with it and gave us the mass produced slop your average modern day audience is used to ingesting. No, instead, we get the clop of Jake's hoofs, and you get the satisfied feeling of a campy homage done right.
|Image from beyondhollywood.com|
First thing's first: the aliens were fucking creepy! And I'm not talking "creepy for a bad movie" creepy. Not even "they popped up in random places and scared the crap out of me" creepy. I'm talking "genuine creature movie creature" creepy. The cowboys half might've been a bit on the campy side, but they took their aliens dead seriously. I don't know who designed those bastards, but their ugly stomach arms got under my skin. They were ferocious, merciless, beasts of doom and destruction. And it wasn't like there was one main character dead for every twenty aliens they killed--oh, no, these bitches were indestructible, and they flattened our cowboy compadres. They were ugly, they had an (incredibly well designed) imaginative home base, and they flew ships that might've made reavers blush. The weird fishing lines they use to catch humans? Yeah. These bitches mean business.
One of the best things about this movie, without a doubt, was the action. The fight scenes were fantastic--the battles against the aliens themselves weren't only visually stunning, but emotionally harrowing. I'm not sure whether to credit the script or the director on that one, but either way, you feel the claustrophobic panic of being in a warzone of creatures bigger, stronger, and better than you. Sure, they get away with the old "peek-a-boo" alien here and there, but the main tug of the action lies in the mounting tension of it all. And, just for a last note on the aliens, the flashback scenes of the spaceship? Holy fucking God. Now that is what I call a proper alien abduction. Sodomized Hillbilly Hank ain't got nothin' on these guys.
|I've died and gone to heaven.|
It's really hard to go wrong in a movie were your two leading men just happen to also be Indiana Jones and James Bond. Daniel Craig owned his role as Jack Lonergan and created a great, modern cowboy hero from the dust of classics past. He's always been good at that cold, distant thing, and he pulled it off yet again. Not to mention, he's killer when it comes to action scenes. And I'm not just talking about giving it to someone--the way he looks when he pounds a guy's face in and you just know that sorry bastard isn't getting up again. But he takes it like a pro--when the invincible Jack Lonergan starts to eat dust, you can really feel the stakes kicked up a notch.
Harrison Ford I'm not going to get into too much detail with because the trailer lead me to believe one thing about his character while his role in the movie itself ended up being a very pleasant surprise. All I'll say is he doesn't get enough diverse roles that he can really sink his teeth into, and I think it's about time we've given the man some respect for that. Sure, he doesn't have the young, charming looks he did some twenty years ago. But he's still got an extraordinary talent and, given the right role, he really runs away and shines with it. Here's to hoping Harrison Ford keeps trucking like the badass he is. And while I'm on the topic, he had brilliant chemistry with Daniel Craig. But maybe the action adventure lover in me was still just seeing stars with the whole Jones/Bond bit. I will say this much--I am very disappointed in Harrison Ford's hat for never having fallen off, only to get snatched up at the last second. It was not his hat's best role, and I expect better from it in the future.
|What's she doing? Stalking? Staring? What do you want??? Take my wallet!|
Now for Olivia Wilde. By far, the weakest point of the entire film. Weaker than the hat. I could've done without every single one of her scenes and I would've been happy. Well. Alright. Up until the last ten minutes (after the conversation that started this review), I learned to appreciate her character. And that in itself should be proof of how badass this movie is. But for the other, you know, one hour and fifty minutes of the movie? Yeah. Maybe it was the character, maybe it was the actress, maybe it was the fact that I couldn't get over how strikingly inhuman she looks on a regular basis (am I the only one screaming cylon?). Whatever it was, she sucked giant horse balls. Moving along.
The rest of the cast falls under a handful of honorable mentions. Paul Dano did a stellar job at the pathetic and proud rich little daddy's boy Percy Dolarhyde, and the only problem with his character was that I simply couldn't get enough of him. But then again, he more or less stole every shot he was in, so it was for the sake of the movie really that they kept his character to a minimum. Keith Carradine played an excellent sheriff and just imbibed the whole period aspect, as did Sam Rockwell. Adam Beach did the best with what his role afford him, which wasn't much more than a typical "token minority" role. And finally, I have to give a shout out to my boy David O'Hara, who was practically unrecognizable in this movie. For the life of me, I don't understand why he goes paycheck to paycheck on bit parts, the dude's a damn good actor.
End summation? If you're the type of person where just title Cowboys & Aliens has you wetting yourself, go see this movie. End of story.