Cowboys and Aliens
Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in film rarely rising to cartoonish mayhem title promises
Comic-book adaptation Cowboys & Aliens is two genre films in one. It mashes up the western with sci-fi – a strategy which worked well in the outer-space frontiers of Star Trek and Star Wars, but creates frustratingly patchy results in Jon Favreau’s good-looking film.
It all starts promisingly as Jake (Daniel Craig) awakens on a plain, violently takes down a few strangers, then stumbles into a nearby Arizona town. He gets involved in a conflict between the effete Percy (Paul Dano) and saloon-keeper Doc (Sam Rockwell) and ends up in jail, but he’s roused to action when aliens kidnap Percy. Jake join forces with Percy’s dad, local lawman Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). Together, they join up with the mysterious Ella (Tron’s Olivia Wilde) as the plucky humans lead a fight-back against an imminent alien invasion.
In synopsis Favreau’s film sounds great, with a strong cast and simple commercial idea, but the screenplay, carrying the weight of nine writing credits, quickly sells out the concept by positioning humanity as caught in the crossfire between two alien races. It’s a matter of how far Favreau gets from the simplicity of the original conceit that when the final battle between cowboys and aliens occurs, it happens in the background of another, duller scene.
With his eyes been digitally buffed to resemble Yul Brynner’s in Westworld, Craig makes for a striking if not particularly likable lead, while Harrison Ford is stern and surprisingly humourless. The two stars have annoyingly few scenes together but few action sequences do gel, like Jake’s airborne battle with an alien drone. Ultimately Cowboys & Aliens rarely rises to the cartoonish mayhem the title promises.
General release from Fri 19 Aug.