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Cowboys & Aliens - DVD Review

Cowboys and Aliens

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

YOU’VE got to tip your hat to Jon Favreau and company, in a summer filled with prequels, sequels and superheroes they’re at least attempting to do something different… and doing it very well!

Inspired by a graphic novel, Cowboys And Aliens does what it says on the label and delivers plenty to satisfy fans of both genres.

But crucially it does so in a reverential way as opposed to being sarcastic or self-consciously ironic. It’s both a very good Western and a notable slice of sci-fi.

What’s more, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are great adversaries turned allies, Olivia Wilde adds feisty sex appeal and there’s scene grabbing support from a strong ensemble that includes the ever dependable Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Adam Beach and Keith Carradine.

Not everything works, of course. There are plotting elements that feel clumsy and the third act is, typically, the weakest link. But it’s no small compliment to state that if a sequel got greenlit minus the aliens you’d happily return for another ride with the central protagonists.

The plot picks up as Jake Lonergan (Craig) awakes in the middle of the desert with little memory of how he got there and with a weird bracelet around his wrist.

But not long after making it to the nearest town, he finds himself under arrest by the town’s sheriff, being scrutinised by mystery woman Ella (Wilde) and in the gunsights of Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford).

And that’s before mystery lights begin to appear in the sky and the townsfolk are plucked from the street by terrifying spacecraft that only Jake and his bracelet are seemingly able to stop.

Favreau’s film, though flawed and absurd, entertains in grand fashion to emerge as one of the more original and fun films of the summer with an unexpectedly gritty edge.

The aliens are genuinely creepy and owe more to the Alien/Predator template, which works, while the cowboys adhere to the strong, silent type made famous by Clint Eastwood. That’s not to say it’s totally straight-faced but the humour evolves from the situations rather than movie in-jokes.

It means that it’s great fun getting to know the characters and spending time with them – something that isn’t always true of such genre films.

Favreau also makes sure the film delivers on spectacle, with set pieces that genuinely dazzle while serving the story.

A mid-movie chase sequence, in particular, stands out while Craig’s fancy alien conquering bracelet is seriously cool.

The criticisms stem from the script’s failings, which tend to labour the point surrounding some of the film’s unions (Ford’s father-son dynamics or cowboys and Indians putting their differences to one side), while not offering too much of an explanation for the aliens’ presence.

But these are small grievances when set against the overall sense of pleasure you should get from saddling up and taking it’s generally exciting ride.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 118mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: December 26, 2011