Ticking all the boxes on the ‘anticipation list’, Cowboys & Aliens rides into cinemas backed by a wealth of top-notch talent.

A director proven with this kind of stuff? Check – Jon Favreau.

Some big-hitting talent up on screen? Check – Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.

Some even bigger-talent overseeing the whole project? Check – Steven Spielberg.

And it is this array of dazzling Hollywood ability that leaves C&A feeling something of a disappointment, even though for chunks of its running time it is certainly entertaining.

The mere title may have elicited guffaws from audiences when teaser trailers were first shown last year, but there is no doubting the concept is one to excite and enthral.

Craig plays Jake Lonergan, who wakes up in the Arizona desert with no idea who or where he is – only knowing that he has a strange futuristic device strapped to his wrist.

We are in 1873 you see, and this is very much the Wild West.

Lonergan shows himself to be handy with his fists early on, before riding into the nearest town as a combination of Bond and a Clint Eastwood creation – all menace, scowls, curt dialogue and borderline violence.

Turns out Lonergan is a wanted man, and soon enough into town rides Dolarhyde (Ford), the local landowner and all-round nasty piece of work.

He has an obvious beef with Lonergan, but before the two get to settle their differences in come the aliens, shooting up the town with a variety of flying craft.

Not only that, but they also capture a host of the townspeople.

Can the various parties put aside their differences in order to confront this new menace?

Well, you really don’t need me to answer that do you.

There is plenty that I enjoyed here – the cinematography is excellent and the whole look of the film is pretty cool.

The acting is fine, with Craig and Ford having plenty of scenes bouncing off each other to good effect.

There is also plenty of support from the likes of the ever-reliable Sam Rockwell, as well as damsel duties from Olivia Wilde.

And when the action sequences do come along, they are well handled by Favreau, although there is nothing that will have you on the edge of your seat.

What may surprise though is that there is a lot less of the ‘Aliens’ than you might expect, with swathes of the film concerning itself more with the relationships between the various characters and their loved-ones.

Now that may not be a bad thing, but for some reason here I felt the whole film dragged in a number of places.

With five screenwriters credited there may well have been rewrites and ditched ideas along the way, and that is normally never a good thing.

Cowboys & Aliens certainly does what it says on the tin in the main, but it still feels like a missed opportunity considering those involved.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.

  • I really enjoyed this film, and even though I thought there were places this script could have gone I was very entertained.  I really liked the fact that is was a western with the oddness of the alien invasion that no one would believe if they related the story to someone else.