When I first heard the title of this movie, and mind you this was before I knew any details like who was in it, I thought it was going to be a comedy-a joke- not a real picture to be taken seriously; but the new Universal release Cowboys & Aliens is anything but a joke. Directed by Jon Favreau, whom you might also remember directed Iron Man and Iron Man 2, will take you on a seriously thrilling ride full of twists and turns that keep you hoping for more. With two big Hollywood stars playing the leads who already have experience with the action adventure genre (Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and Daniel Craig as James Bond) makes the victory that is this picture all the more sweeter. The time is 1873 in the Arizona Territory and the character played by Daniel Craig has woken up in the middle of nowhere with a strange iron bracelet on his arm but without a memory. He finds his way back to the small mining town turned cattle town of Absolution where he hopes he can find out more about himself. Not long after his arrival he finds out his name is Jake Lonergan, he is a wanted man, and the most powerful man in town is after him. Before he can be handed over to the authorities, strange lights flash as flyers whisk through sky and abduct many of the townspeople’s loved ones. Lonergan finds himself in a strange connection with these demons from the sky. The bracelet on his wrist comes to life when the demons are close and it is the only weapon that will take down the demon spacecraft or stop a demon monster dead in his tracks. The remaining townspeople, led by the owner of the cattle ranch, Woodrow Dolarhyde, band together to chase after the demons and rescue their loved ones. Going along for the ride is Ella Swenson, a mysterious woman from Absolution who seems to know things about Jake that he does not. With only bits and pieces of his past yet to be put together, Jake Lonergan joins the townspeople in hopes of putting his life back together.
Whatever comedy I thought was inherent in the name, the joke ends there as the rest of the movie takes itself seriously, thought there are a few laughs where the movie almost makes fun of itself. The story is clever. There are not many movies about space aliens invading at different time periods in history. Although the humans and aliens are not at all alike, they are looking for the same thing: gold. The precious metal is imperative to alien life and when better to harvest gold than during the gold rush of the Wild West. The story may slow down here and there but it never loses its momentum keeping you on you toes, the minute you relax and think there is no more, the thrill ride starts all over again.
Cowboys & Aliens has a lot of big names attached to the picture which ensured its success. Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg are just two names in the tour-de-force Universal put together for this movie. Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig reinforce their action hero status and their strong and silent type personas. Two standout performances come from Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy, House) as the mysterious Ella Swenson who knows more than she is leading on and Adam Beach (Wind Talkers, Smoke Signals) as Dolarhyde’s hired man and tracker. Cowboys & Aliens is a superb movie about the triumph of the human spirit. It takes you to the height of thrill and sends you bending and swerving until the very end. There is no little surprise and the end of the credits, but why not stay to the end anyways and just read some of the names you never hear about but you see the fruits of their labor and have a little calming down period from this amazing thrill ride.