Cowboys & Aliens

The title is the best thing about Jon Favreau’s sci-fi western

Cowboys & Aliens


Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Time Out rating:

Iron Man director Jon Favreau’s latest actioner needs no introduction other than the title – and that’s one of the best things going for it. The idea of aliens descending on a dusty Wild West town has widespread popcorn appeal and, with a heavy sprinkling of big name actors, Cowboys & Aliens gets off to a promising start.

Daniel Craig plays the strong, silent cowboy who wakes in the New Mexico desert with no memory and a chunky metal bracelet on his arm – the first clue to an impending alien invasion. It’s soon clear he can remember how to fight, however, as he rides into the nearest town and humiliates Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), the arrogant drunken son of big-shot cattleman Woodrow (Harrison Ford). But Woodrow and our hero must team up when an alien spaceship swoops in, plucking up victims and prompting a disparate band of cowboys, Native Americans and mysterious strangers to track it through the wilderness.

It’s here the pace starts to falter. Characters are undercooked, with only a potential romance (Craig and Olivia Wilde) and a surrogate-son routine (Ford and Adam Beach) offering emotional engagement. The aliens themselves have little personality, and their appearance is all too derivative (think slimy grey skin and Alien-style inner jaws). But the biggest problem is a lack of humour: while Craig looks every inch the cowboy and handles gruff action well, Robert Downey Jr he ain’t.

A handful of funnies simply isn’t enough in a film that should have been handled with B-movie glee rather than pompous plod. With slick action and effects, Cowboys & Aliens is a good-looking movie that passes muster as a visual diversion. But once the gang saddle up, what started as True Grit-meets-War of the Worlds ends up closer to – whisper it – Wild Wild West.

Cowboys & Aliens opens nationwide on October 22

By Anna Smith
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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