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A little cheese and a little whine

Film Log: Cowboys and Aliens

Details here.

This film is either a run-of-the-mill Western with aliens playing the role of the bandits / natives / ne’re-do-wells, or it’s a run-of-the-mill "their puny sticks are no match for our mighty weapons" alien invasion film set in the wild west rather than a modern city. Either way there is no obvious synergy between the genres, and you can’t help but feel that it could have been two different but rather better films by dropping this basic gimmick.

The gimmick invites a comic treatment but this is steadfastly resisted, with the whole film played completely straight, and touching on (but never properly addressing) traditional western themes like the role of law, the nature of heroism and the value of family and community. The pace is absolutely glacial: there is none of the suspense we would expect from the alien genre, but the aliens get in the way of us identifying with the community which is under threat so that the western themes never really take off either. The film opens with an amnesiac Daniel Craig coming to in the desert wearing a strange bracelet; it’s apparent to even the meanest intelligence that he has been abducted by aliens, but for some reason the writers seem to think that it’s worth playing this out as a story question, with periodic flashbacks which, with tedious inevitability, show us what has happened to him.

Ford and Craig do their very best with the material but neither seems to enjoy himself and indeed there’s little evidence of any enthusiasm or chemistry amongst the cast generally. Visually as well as dramatically the film simply superimposes clichés from the two genres with no synthesis or synergy between them – the cowboys look like cowboys and the aliens look like aliens and that’s all there is to it. Somewhere in the long history of this film, there was probably a really good and imaginative idea, but this is a truly pedestrian and lacklustre attempt to do it justice.

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Filed under: Film + TV

One Response

  1. Jim St Ruth says:

    Excellent review… mirrors my thoughts exactly. I’m still not impressed by the ending, but don’t want to give it away to anyone that might watch it; I think the hero should have done more, though.

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My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

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