Review: Cowboys and Aliens (Movie)

Review: Cowboys and Aliens (Movie)

Oh yeah, I remember playing this game when I was five!

This is one of those things that you make up as a little boy of around five years of age. You’re running around the backyard…you know, in those few moments where you weren’t off playing ‘tendo…and you are blowing away your friends with fake guns set to some fantastic setting. And it goes something like this:

“So there are these cowboys! And the cowboys, one of the is a…a bank robber! Yeah! Or a train robber! Or something! And he has a thing on his arm and if blows people up because its an alien thing on his arm! So he goes around and he fights badder guys and he then gets arrested by the sheriff! But then another guy who is old and mean and a colonel comes and he doesn’t like the robber guy because he robbed things from him but then some aliens come! Yeah, you guys are the aliens and I’m playing the cowboy! So the aliens take all the people in the town and the people left in the town need the robber to go get them back with his thing on his wrist which is a special alien killing thing and its awesome! Oh, and also, the aliens want gold because gold is awesome too.”

Thank you five-year old Kyle. Your contributions to his review are much appreciated.

Seriously, this is the kind of shit we’re getting into here. I can’t summarize the movie better than that. Its the story of a wild west desperado, played by Daniel Craig, who wakes up in the middle of the desert with a thing on his arm and has to save a town from an invasion of alien gold miners with grizzled badass Harrison Ford. It is exactly what the title promises. You usually don’t get that kind of raw honesty from Hollywood.

Now what I did not expect was some of the subtler nuances that this movie provided. Yes, that’s right, there is some subtlety in a movie called Cowboys and Aliens. Though let’s get this out of the way right now. Daniel Craig has one emotion. Stone-faced mild rage. That’s all you get. That’s all you really need from badass train robber with an alien thing on his arm. But it’s the side characters who orbit around this one emotion-flavored human popcicle that make this story something to pay attention to. For example, we have Sam Rockwell as perhaps the wussiest bar owner in existence. This guy gets the Rodney Dangerfield treatment. No respect at all. But after his super hot wife is kidnapped by the aliens, he has to man up and kick some extra terrestrial backside. But, maybe its just because Sam Rockwell is a fantastic actor, we really get into this guy’s quest to make his testes actually drop some. He gives just enough so that you really want him to get his payoff moment.

Another example is Harrison Ford’s Colonel Dolarhyde. At first he just appears to be the stereotypical rich old colonel who abuses the townsfolk who owe him their very existence and got a kick out of exterminating the native Americans. However, as the movie goes on, we get several glimpses of the man behind all that bluster. Dolarhyde, for example, isn’t just a one-note Indian hunter, but feels he is a man with a mission and must accomplish it. That doesn’t keep him from seeing them as human beings though, nor does it keep him from admitting he is wrong about them from time to time. Its like they took the colonel from Avatar and then gave him something James Cameron obviously felt wasn’t necessary to his movie. Layers. And to think, I am saying that a movie called Cowboys and Aliens is more nuanced than a James Cameron film…

Overall this movie delivers on exactly what it promises. Cowboys fighting aliens and a sense of fun not seen since you were five years old and such a concept not only made sense but seemed downright brilliant. The only downside to this is that not everyone can get back into that mindset. For those that can, you’ll have a good time at the movies ahead of you. For those that can’t…well, you always have the Wall Street Journal.


Its got that feel-good five-year old playing in the backyard goofiness that gives it instant charm and keeps it highly entertaining. It also has a surprising amount of character depth at times.It's that same goofiness that will keep some viewers away. Warning: This movie is not for people who can't remember fighting their Ninja Turtles against their G.I. Joes and creating a story that makes sense only to you.
85 out of 100

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