They had Pantene Pro-V in the Old West?

Theatrical Release Date: 07/29/2011
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Adam Brown, Sam Rockwell
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.
Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes


At least it’s a dry heat.

Allow me to start this review by thanking director Jon Favreau for not making “Cowboys & Aliens” in 3D. These days almost every major action blockbuster movie being released has been made in 3D or IMAX 3D, and I am sick of it. The resulting film is almost always loaded with cheap gimmicks flying in your face that disturb and distract you from enjoying the adventure.

When films are not being made in 3D, they’re being converted to 3D for theater release. All of these films end up blurry on the edges and completely out of focus if you shift your head in any direction but straight on, making it impossible for me to lean my head on my man’s shoulders. In short, 3D films take all the enjoyment and romance out of the theater. So, thank you, Jon Favreau, from the bottom of my heart for making a great movie in 2D.

That having been said, now you all know I loved this movie. It was the perfect mid-summer blockbuster release. I was sucked in from the opening scene where amnesiac Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakens in the desert, isolated and alone. As Jake discovers his past, the audience falls for a dark, gritty, anti-hero worthy of the classic western. Harrison Ford played the perfect foil to Craig, as Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde, the wealthy rancher who wants him dead for stealing from him. The two have to work together when alien ships arrive in the night laying waste to the town and kidnapping indefensible townsfolk. The people not abducted set off to rescue any survivors and thwart the alien invasion.

Casting was spectacular from top to bottom. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford played against each other perfectly, and as expected, both men allowed most of the story to come through by what they didn’t say rather than what they did. Sam Rockwell brought the necessary comic relief in his role as the doctor/saloon owner who can’t shoot straight to save his life. Clancy Brown is one of my favorite castings as Meacham, a dry, no nonsense, preacher who is almost as willing to take a life as save one. Olivia Wilde is probably the only one in the cast who didn’t have to act; she always comes across as an alien no matter what role she plays.

One of the reasons “Cowboys & Aliens” will have timeless staying power as a classic is that it is a western movie in which aliens attack rather than a sci-fi movie that takes place in olden times. I’m banking that is due to Favreau’s vision rather than the graphic novel upon which is it based; however, I must admit that I have not read the source material. The construct remains true to western cinematography, sound and dialogue, allowing the audience to completely fall into the film and lose themselves.

It was especially pleasant to watch a film where the fighting scenes are appropriate to the period; I don’t need kung fu or parkour in my western even if it is a sci-fi western. It was also great to see good trick riding using great trick horses. And I really appreciated that Favreau went back to Ray Harryhausen film techniques in order to get the horses to react to virtual attacks.

My only complaints for the film are two small physics whoopsies at the end of the film when the alien ship is revealed, but I can easily forgive a bunch of people miraculously surviving a rocket blast and a severe lack of explosion debris when the rest of the film looked flawless.

“Cowboys & Aliens” will go in my stack of regular replays along with “Indiana Jones”, “Back to the Future” and “Star Trek“. I am glad to have finally seen a movie this summer worth a 4.5 out of 5. Because of that I definitely think it is worth seeing in the theater as well as owning on Blu-Ray.

4.5 out of 5