The apostle Peter wrote that “charity will cover a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). If you’ll forgive a secular comparison, fun covers a lot of film-making sins in the case of Cowboys and Aliens, the new sci-fi Western from director John Favreau (Iron Man, Elf). Forget that some moviegoers will never get over the bizarre title; this is a film with giant plot holes, unexplained mysteries, character arcs that stretch credibility, and mythology that seems made up on the fly. For some, these flaws will be the film’s downfall, as will the outlandish mix of movie genres. For those willing to give it a shot, however, Cowboys and Aliens is a terrifically entertaining popcorn picture, loaded with truly butt-kicking action, memorable characters, gorgeous cinematography, effective scares, funny one-liners, and the surprisingly potent chemistry of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford trying to out-macho one another. A stare down between Clint Eastwood and John Wayne is the only thing that could have competed.
Ford is in rare form here, and its a joy to see him reclaim his blockbuster birthright. He’s so adept at playing a cowboy, one wonders if he might see a career resurrection as a Western anti-hero. Daniel Craig proves his turn in Casino Royale was no fluke; he gives a hardcore performance here that has traces of early Eastwood or Steve McQueen, but he also places his own stamp on things with a movie-star performance (and his American accent is credible). The supporting cast is solid: Olivia Wilde’s subdued performance makes sense later on, and every side character, even when they’re written as simple Western archetypes, is well-cast and enjoyably acted. I especially appreciated the favorable portrayal of the preacher, who is an embodiment of the “wise soul” character rarely found in pop culture portrayals of Christians.
Though the film doesn’t quite achieve a balance between its early gritty harshness and later sentimental heroism, excellent acting and a strong theme of redemption mostly make up for that. The special effects range from terrific to good, the musical score is strong and traditional, and the movie takes enough time both to make us care about its characters and to imagine how 19th-century settlers would react to such a foreign thing as an alien invasion. This is a first-class cowboy film and a rock-em, sock-em’ action movie. It offers plenty of thrills, but none greater than seeing 007 and Indiana Jones saddle up together to fight a common enemy. It seems like they had a blast, and if you can just with go it, you will too.
CONTENT OVERVIEW:Cowboys and Aliens is rated PG-13. It is suprisingly gritty and violent, and is definitely not for children. There are various brutal fistfights, shootings, and stabbings, as well as frightening alien attacks and some disturbing/bloody images. There is a moderate amount of profanity (no f-words, however) and a crude joke. It is implied that a woman is briefly nude in a nonsexual situation, but nothing is seen except her back from her head to her waist. There is no sexuality.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Even the worst enemies can become friends. Be united and look for the good in those different from you.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.