[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B007PZ2BEG][/pullquote] Jon Favreau burst onto the Hollywood scene initially as an actor in the cult hit Swingers. From there his career endured peaks and troughs, before he finally established himself as a blockbuster director with the Iron Man films. It’s an odd thing for someone of his talents to have succeeded at, because his strengths lie in dialogue and character ˜banter’ so evident in Swingers, and sadly stifled in Cowboys and Aliens.
Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakes in the desert near a small town of Absolution with no memory of who he is or how he got there. After being arrested as a ‘Wanted’ man, the small town is attacked by UFOs, and he the local cattle-herder (Harrison Ford) and the town’s saloon-owner Doc (Sam Rockwell) go off in search of the kidnapped townspeople.
What could’ve been a fun, action-packed film with seemingly good chemistry between its two main stars Craig and Ford, is instead, very serious. It’s not that Cowboys and Aliens is bad, fair from it, it’s well constructed and reasonably paced, the problem is that it takes itself so seriously throughout that it’s difficult for the audience to really learn to love the characters.
Craig is the epitome of Western stoicism, with his say-little, punch-lots Jake the centre of all the action. A self-confessed Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford fan, he’s eyes light up everytime he’s on screen doing his best impression of one whilst playing off the other. Olivia Wilde is beautiful and alluring, which is everything that her character asks of her and the much mooted nudity scene is suitably PG-friendly. The real disappointment though is the glorified cameo from Harrison Ford. What could’ve been a great cinema pairing is instead wasted with frivolous special effects and largely disappointing aliens.
This is the main problem with Cowboys and Aliens as a whole though. It’s confused in its intentions and pedestrian because of it. They could’ve made a serious, interesting Western, or even a futuristic science fiction extravaganza. They couldn’t decide and what we left with is a film that is fun in parts, but each time you can’t help but wish they’d really committed to it.
Brief glimpses of fun and action are enjoyable, but there not nearly enough of them. Cowboys and Aliens’ cast is strong, the action acceptable and the overall atmosphere quite good. But it feels like a wasted opportunity to do something really spectacular and exhilarating.