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'Cowboys and Aliens' blends six-guns and spaceships

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It got me.

'Cowboys and Aliens' begins with a mysterious man (Daniel Craig, 'Quantum of Solace') waking up in the middle of nowhere. He has no memory of who he is or where he came from; just a photograph and a strange metal band on his wrist. He makes his way to the nearby town of Absolution, a tiny town ruled by local cattleman Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford, 'Morning Glory'). The man is arrested and about to be delivered into federal custody when surprise! aliens show up and start blowing stuff up and abducting the heck out of everyone.

Honestly? That's about everything you need to know.

The best part about the whole thing is the fact that, to my surprise, the movie was actually pretty good. You know, no award winner, but just a solid popcorn-muncher of a summer blockbuster.

Most of the credit for that has to go to Craig and Ford. The two of them have more than enough charisma to carry the film through its brisk two hours. Thankfully, the bulk of the action is handled by Craig watching Harrison Ford geriatrically struggle through a stunt sequence would be too heartbreaking for words. Still, the two of them are unmistakably movie stars, to the film's great benefit.

That's not to say that they do it all alone. Sam Rockwell ('Iron Man 2') has a nice turn as Doc, the town's doctor/saloonkeeper, for instance. The entire supporting cast is strong, featuring a veritable who's who of 'that guy's, those actors that you always recognize and usually like, but whose names you never remember. The one weak link felt like Olivia Wilde, whose performance wasn't terrible per se, but rather two-dimensional. There was a flatness to her that stood out.

Director Jon Favreau has officially established his big-budget blockbuster bona fides by now, after helming the two 'Iron Man' films before this one. 'Cowboys and Aliens' works because it plays everything honestly. This isn't some sort of kitschy wink at the audience; the film takes itself seriously. That genuineness of intent is what makes the whole thing work.

And it does work. The effects are prevalent without being distracting. The action sequences are exciting and well-made, although there's a tendency toward quick cuts that can make things feel a little too chaotic and tough to follow. Again, the performances are good. And it's a surprisingly engaging story a bit thin perhaps, but still interesting enough to keep me wanting to know what would happen next.

'Cowboys and Aliens' delivers what it promises cowboys and aliens. And really, what more can you ask for from your summertime movies?

[3 out of 5]

Last modified on Friday, 07 October 2011 13:47

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