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Cowboys & Aliens

First Contact. Last Stand. 

Year: 2011 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Jon Favreau 
Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde  
An image from Cowboys & Aliens

Jake Lonergan (Craig) awakens in the middle of the desert with no memory, and a strange manacle on his wrist which he cannot remove. Upon arriving in a nearby town, things don’t improve when he tangles with the grizzled Colonel Dolarhyde (Ford), minutes before spaceships descend from the skies, blasting the town apart and abducting several of its inhabitants. Frightened and angered, a ragtag band of townspeople, led by Jake and Dolarhyde, is assembled to pursue the aliens across the desert to rescue those who were kidnapped. On their journey between blistering encounters with aliens and Native Americans, Jake begins to piece together his past with the help of the mysterious Ella Swenson (Wilde).

Looking past the slightly daft title, Cowboys And Aliens is a gritty, old-school affair, which manages to assemble a fresh blend of the Sci-Fi, Action and Western genres with some considerable flair. The action scenes are explosive and feature some brilliant special effects, though they thankfully don’t suffocate the picture: the characters are given space to breathe amid the shootouts, and most are fleshed-out into real people rather than simple gun-toting stereotypes.

The cast perform a great job all round: Craig is wonderful as a frustrated, Wild-West take on Jason Bourne, and Ford seems to enjoy every second as the group’s cantankerous leader. Starring two iconic screen presences could have made the whole thing a bit of a self-indulgent mess, but neither star hogs the limelight for himself; and Sam Rockwell and Wilde add some real tenderness to what could have been a stale macho-flick in the wrong hands.

Sure, sometimes Favreau takes things a little too far as he stretches his artistic freedom on the Sci-Fi side of things, but for the most part, Cowboys And Aliens is good, old-fashioned, honest entertainment.

Michael Perry

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Screenings of this film:

2011/2012 Spring Term (35mm)