Cowboys and Aliens

Yes, someone did get a little cutesy with the title. Don't let that throw you, though. It may only be rated PG-13, but it's got plenty of violence, explosions, and just-barely-off-camera gore. Everyone has a gun, and nearly everyone knows how to use it. It isn't a cute movie by any stretch of the imagination.

It is a pretty good one, though. After having seen what happens when cowboys meet ninjas and also when cowboys meet a really bad steampunk-like script, I was understandably a little nervous about the idea of cowboys meeting aliens. It seems like a tricky thing to write well, and probably equally tricky to act -- you have to play someone from the past meeting something from the future, basically, and somehow manage to react convincingly.

Thankfully, Daniel Craig shares the trait common to several of the actors who have played James Bond; namely, that I think he might be able to read the phone book aloud and make it sound interesting. I know Sean Connery could. Daniel Craig plays a cowboy like Clint Eastwood, which is to say, a Man with No Name. He wakes up, slightly wounded and probably very dehydrated, in the middle of nowhere, which as it turns out is a few miles east of Absolution. He also discovers a large, clunky metal bracelet of some kind on his wrist, which won't come off.

When three awful, smelly bounty hunters find him, they not unnaturally assume he's escaped from jail. The bounty hunters are supposed to be a father and two sons, I think, all with the last name Claiborne, possibly after Billy Claiborne of OK Corral fame. See what you can learn by watching Star Trek? I think the actors are a father and two sons, too, as they all share the last name Taylor. Anyway, the MwNN objects to being hauled off, as you might imagine, and mayhem ensues. Guess who wins?

Once in Absolution, things don't get much better for our hero. Well, our protagonist, at least. The richest man in town is Harrison Ford, playing cattle baron Woodrow Dolarhyde, veteran of the American Civil War. His son, Percy (Knight & Day), has been saddled with a terrible name and is therefore a loudmouth bully. His foster brother, Nat, is played by Adam Beach, who gets the unenviable job of trying to look after this kid. The ever-versatile Sam Rockwell is here hiding behind a large mustache playing Doc, who keeps a saloon. I can't tell if he's really a doctor or if they just call him that because he knows a little about medicine, but most of the time, he's the only healer they have, and he's busy. Oh, and there's a girl, Ella, played by Thirteen from House. I mean, by Olivia Wilde from Tron: Legacy, who walks around wearing a pretty, frilly, flowery dress, with a big ugly black gun belt her only accessory. She sits in the saloon unaccompanied, and no one messes with her in any way, so right there you know something's up.

There's something up in the sky, too. When Percy finally shoots his gun off just as inappropriately as he does his mouth, both he and the MwNN land in some trouble. It's about then that the whole town lands in some trouble, as pretty lights in the sky turn out to be nasty little ships that swoop down and snag people to carry off to parts unknown. And it isn't mere coincidence that also about then, the MwNN starts figuring out what that metal thing on his wrist can do.

So it's a little like a classic Western, as already implied, and a little like any other "aliens attempting to invade earth" flick you'd care to name. It's also a little reminiscent of a World War II movie. Heck, at one point, it even reminded me of The Poseidon Adventure. You'll understand when you see it. And you should see it, because it gets four and a quarter out of five. It has a few doubtful plot points here and there, but nothing too terrible -- and the subplot with Woodrow and Percy suffered from a little too much editing, I think -- but despite it being a little like a lot of other sorts of movies, it managed a style all its own. I liked it, the rest of the audience seemed to like it, and never once did I give up on the humans and start rooting for the aliens, unlike some some other alien invasion movies I could mention. Maybe that's because it was based on a graphic novel.

Image: 
The Man with No Name, standing dramatically before a dramatic explosion.

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