Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Cowboys and Aliens" review: spot-on John Ford style western with a seriously unique sci-fi twist

We attended the special American Cinematheque screening of "Cowboys and Aliens" this past Monday night. Jon Favreau did a fantastic Q&A for the fans as well as industry people in attendance. Security was high as we entered the Aero Theatre and there was certainly a sense that perhaps someone beyond the director would be showing up as a surprise. I had a gut feeling that might even be Harrison Ford, but later found Favreau would be the sole guest for the evening. No matter, because I always enjoy hearing the darling of Comic-Con speak. Whether it be in Hall H or at a retrospective theater we hold so dear.

As the lights went down and the movie unspooled, we were thrust into a classic western. The type John Ford would have made had he still been alive. Daniel Craig is perfectly cast in the role of a man who has no memory prior to when he wakes up out in the wilderness to find a strangely futuristic bracelet on his wrist. Craig exudes Clint Eastwood's 'man with no name' with all the quietness and dangerous hand-to-hand skills he possesses. Harrison Ford is the one man everyone fears in a small town Craig's character, Jake Lonergan, stumbles upon in his search for who he is and how he got there. The actor who embodied Indiana Jones brings a lot of bad guy gruffness to the role of Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde, at first Lonergan's enemy who becomes an unwilling ally after aliens attack their small town to abduct some of the townspeople.

Jon Favreau brings his great flair for action sequences to a movie that could have gone horribly wrong in less than capable hands. Yet the man who directed "Iron Man" lends his great love of the classic western and connection to out-of-this-world fantasy with skill and bravado. The cinematography is crisp and spot-on John Ford, while the special effects are really well done and very original in their execution. There's never been a movie quiet like this before, and I shiver at the concept of it being a comedy which was one of the original concepts before Favreau came on board. It's interesting to note that Robert Downey, Jr. was once attached to this project back when it adhered more to the graphic novel. He actually passed it on to Favreau during the filming of "Iron Man" and Favreau took immediate interest.

This is a story of redemption for several of the main characters and that redemption is greatly earned as the movie reaches it's climax. While Craig handles the cool-eyed loner with style, Ford reminds us once again exactly why some of us fell in love with the movies in the first place. Plus, I also have to say that it was good to see Sam Rockwell's work in his second film with Jon Favreau, his first being "Iron Man 2". I even mentioned my appreciation of that fact, as well as how much we enjoyed this movie when I shook the director's hand right after the screening Monday night.

Somewhat like with "Super 8", "Cowboys and Aliens" will take you back to a time when movies were fun and not overly bloated with effects with a sorely lacking story. So many films suffer from those two viruses these days, and it's good to see the team of Spielberg, Howard, and Favreau roll out a western romp with a twist that's worth seeing on the big screen!


At July 29, 2011 at 4:52 PM, Anonymous Allen said...

Both thumbs are up!


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