These guys carry their bullets in their pockets.

Cowboys and Aliens

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Take two iconic American movie myths and blend. The result would be the odd mix of the old American West and space sci-fi that is Cowboys and Aliens. If you smile, you'll have fun. Just settle in and enjoy the actors, the special effects, and the landscape.
            The movie opens with re-imagined clichés of the Westerns of the '50s. Our hero is Jake (Daniel Craig). He is armed with a metal cuff that is locked on his wrist without any memory of how it got there or of who he is. We know Jake is the real thing because throughout the movie the first thing he does after every catastrophe is to re-settle his cowboy hat on his head - just so. And if you think he ever loses his hat during the catastrophes, think again. We know he is a multifaceted hero because the brim on his darkish hat is a bit flat and wide. Cowboys who are not complex wear light hats with upturned brims. Daniel Craig's Jake is an authentic, complicated western hero.
            Jake the amnesiac rides into a small western town filled with familiar types. We meet a powerful grouch - ranch owner Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) and his son Percy (Paul Dano), the remarkably nasty town bully whose redemption is expected. Over there is the studious, peaceful, man (Sam Rockwell) who could only be called Doc, and is. Over here, a young boy with beautiful eyes who is sure to figure prominently in a later scene when called on to surrender his gentleness in the service of a heroic act. And most mysteriously, Ella (Olivia Wilde), a lovely woman who tracks Jake because she needs something from him. Therein: suspense.
            On first sight, Jake and Dolarhyde face off, each landing a stunning blow that allows them to operate on equal footing. Just in time, for out of the literal blue a terrifying Spielbergian creature appears - claw first, then a monstrous body that opens to release white, wet, jelly like hands that are coming for us from the belly of the beast. Just try keeping your eyes open. The aliens become the villains while natural enemies align to survive. Three heroes (Craig, Ford, Wilde), a band of thieves, and a contingent of Apaches against a common enemy. Flaws? This gang would have needed a wagon train to carry the ammunition they fire, but our guys seem to carry it all in their pockets. Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig have the right grizzled authenticity, but beautiful Olivia Wilde, though very good, is contemporary.
            Our spirits soar when we see the good guys sprinkled along the white sandstone cliffs as they prepare to attack the enormous alien ship. That's the beginning of a dazzling finale. And remember, the key to enjoying this movie is to smile in appreciative acceptance of the spectacular sights spawned by the collision of two cultures. May Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford be forever here to protect us.


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