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film review: cowboys and aliens

Cowboys & Aliens (directed by Jon Favreau and written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) follows the story of Jake Lonergan, an outlaw played by Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace) who wakes up in the middle of the desert with no recollection of who he is (apart from a few blurry memories). As the movie progresses, he winds up in a small, old, failing town, barely holding together with the struggling gold industry. The town is ruled by Woodrow Dolarhyde, played by Harrison Ford. Lonergan’s memory slowly comes back, revealing shocking and abashing images of brutality to kidnapped humans who are almost harvested by aliens.

Outright the movie starts off with violence and continues steadily at that pace for the rest of the film. It jumps right into the action, keeping the viewer on edge. The movie is filmed in the classic Western style with lots of stand-offs, long shots, dramatic close ups and of course, the  ‘riding away into the sunset’ shots. Surprisingly though, this doesn’t really detract from the film. It gives it the sort of classic Western feel, that over-the-top heroism that seems to be one of the most popular themes in these types of films. Daniel Craig’s character is the typical anti-hero. A bandit, a loner and a wanted man, he isolates himself from the people he meets until Ella Swenson, played by Olivia Wilde (House, Year One), makes it her mission to get his help.

The music is also in line with the Western theme – there is that typical folk music of the colonial period, although most of the soundtrack seems a little more like the rock pieces we hear in Action shoot-’em-up films, and less in these kinds of movies.

Partway through the film, the cowboys run into Indians which is actually a bit unexpected. While the generalisation of the American-Indian people is common in films such as this one, it seems that this has done a respectable job at putting both cultures on even ground. The film implies equalisation between the cultures and their ability to accept each other and work together as parallels.

Although the film is obviously unrealistic, perhaps that’s what makes it all the more interesting to watch. After all, if a cowboy couldn’t outrun a highly intelligent spaceship on a dehydrated horse, then why would the film be worth watching? The obvious paradoxical way the movie has been set out is used to channel more of that Western feel from those old films that many people still know and love.

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