Wednesday, August 3, 2011

COWBOYS & ALIENS - my take

Saw COWBOYS & ALIENS a couple evenings ago and found it to be a rousing adventure film that I liked a whole lot.
The title pretty much tells the story—an alien spaceship arrives in 1873 to take over the earth and their starting point is the Arizona Territory just outside the town of Absolution. They begin rounding up (literally) humans for scientific studies and experiments while at the same time sucking up all the gold they can get their greedy, slimy fingers on (because, it is explained, gold is as precious on their planet as it is on ours).
At first they strike sporadically in outlying areas so the sense of alarm is slow to spread through the populace in and around Absolution. Then one night they hit the town itself with a swarm of flying attack crafts, wreaking general havoc, blasting things to hell, and making off with several citizens. Only one man—a mysterious stranger with an even more mysterious bracelet attached to his wrist—is able to fight back effectively, thanks to the power contained in said bracelet. He manages to shoot down one of the attack crafts and in the aftermath three things are abundantly clear: 1.) Absoultion and the surrounding area are up against a threat like nothing they've ever experienced before; 2.) They need the myserious stranger and his powerful bracelet if they are going to have any chance at all against these invaders; and 3.) The occupant of the shot-down craft who escapes in the night, leaving a trail of blood, must be tracked back to wherever it came from so that retaliation can be mounted against him and the rest of his kind. So a posse is formed to head out at first light, hell bent on regaining their abducted loved ones, saving their town … and, just incidentally, saving the whole world in the process.
All of this is done in high style, with great action sequences, special effects, and well-seasoned performers (headed up by Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and the lovely Olivia Wilde) playing their parts to the hilt. Plots and subplots and several surprising twists are encountered as the story plunges forward until eventually all key points are revealed. Humor and genuine poignancy are also in the mix.
I was surprised at how strong the straight Western element was in this film. For over half its length—with only a couple of quick what-the-hell-just-happened scenes as the alien presence gradually starts to emerge—this is a good, gritty, old-fashioned Western. Then the pace picks up and we veer off into something a whole lot more. But both genres—Western and science fiction/horror—are given their props and handled with respect, and maybe only a slight bit of tongue-in-cheekiness.
Like I said at the outset, this is a rousing adventure that I really liked and recommend.
One final personal note: The audience on the evening I attended consisted of about 60% middle-aged-plus viewers. A higher percentage, I venture to say, than you'd generally find at a more traditional science fiction/horror/action thriller of this ilk. I submit this is yet another indicator that there is an audience out there hungry for some good old-fashioned Westerns … to the point of seeking one out, even if it means dealing with a few nasty aliens in order to do so.

Persevere — WD

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