Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

This summer, for me at least has been one hot, difficult, letdown of a season. Not just for movies but also regarding life. During one of the hottest seasons on record in the state of Kansas, I needed a good reminder of what I was about, what Kansas is in part about, and something to take my mind off of the difficulties of life. One of the things I normally enjoy doing to escape the reality of the world is the movies. This weekend the movie Cowboys and Aliens looked like it had the potential to be a perfect pick-me-up of a movie to see. I was far from disappointed.

In the 1950’s and early 1960’s there was a core of ‘B’ movies that normally had something in the plot that involved monsters or some of the really good ones had things like Cowboys fighting dinosaurs, giant tarantulas or something of the like. This summer with Cowboys and Aliens I expected something similar to those ‘B’ movies except with an exceptional cast consisting of the likes of Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Keith Carradine, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Abigail Spenser and more I should have known there was going to be a surprise on the Western Prairie.

On the surface, the plot of Cowboys and Aliens seems unbelievable and unlikely, but isn’t that what the movies are for at times, a time and a place to escape reality? Then in the escape of reality, maybe just maybe, it would be possible for one to learn a lesson or two or at the least, make life a little better. The early scenes of the movie has cowboy, Jake Lonergan, played by Daniel Craig waking up bootless and alone in the western desert. It doesn’t take long as Jake is approached by a trio of roughens for the viewer to realize, there is something special about this cowboy, and those that cross his path better watch out. Jake also has this strange bracelet on his wrist which we find out about later in the film. He also has a case of amnesia and doesn’t rightly remember all that has recently transpired. After taking care of some needed business on the plains, Jake makes his way to a town where he comes face to face with the son of a ruthless barren. The father, Woodrow Dolarhyde is played to perfection by Harrison Ford. One night in the town of Absolution after a confrontation with the local pastor, Jake is told that one has to be willing to look for God if they are to find God. The town is later attacked by something not commonly seen in the wild-west, aliens. The alien space craft has this knack of roping some of the townsfolk like a cowboy ropes cattle, and hauls them off to who knows where, for God knows what. Jake and Woodrow form an unlikely alliance to find the townsfolk, and bring some justice on the wild frontier.

The acting here is brilliant, but it isn’t just the acting that is tight; the overall direction by Jon Favreau, known for his work on such films as Ironman among others is brilliant. This movie is technically superior to the old ‘B’ movies. The town looks like a town from the old west and it wouldn’t take much for one to think they smelled the smells of the old west. It isn’t just the look and sounds that impressed me, I expected the good special effects in the present world of CGI, what I didn’t expect was the tight story with a super plot and sub-plot. Cowboys and Indians deliver in all aspects.

Favreau delivers a tight story with a strong sense of development that allows the viewer to see characters we don’t like, change into characters we do. The transformation of characters is so powerful it is hard to tell much without giving away too much of the story. Once in the seats, you will see characters change, as you get to know them and the things that make them who they are, even those who aren’t liked have a story. Special mention has to be made not only to the exceptional work done by Daniel Craig, who is as good as anything he has been in a while, but also Harrison Ford who is back in a stronger role and character where the brilliance of his acting ability comes through like no other role in some time. Also making a valuable contribution to the screen is an actor I have appreciated for some time, Adam Beach, who plays the part of Nat Colorado. I won’t say much here other than to notice towards the conclusion of the film; you will appreciate how good of a job he has done when the heart strings are pulled and the viewer finds themselves reacting to a pivotal scene.

Cowboys and Aliens is loaded! In the opening scenes one of the first to help Jake is the town doctor who also doubles as its minister. It just so happens that the healing in the town of Absolution starts at the town’s church. It is here Jake is confronted head on with the concepts of good and evil, and each individuals own bearing on the good and evil that surround them. We don’t know much at first about Jake’s past but one of the things we see is the ability to turn from the past. We are challenged of the possibility of a bad individual changing and their ability to become a new creature. As the story progresses, just like for many who consider themselves followers of Jesus, there has to be a willing sacrifice of life to ultimately show the magnitude of love. The willingness to die for another does not necessarily bring salvation. It is through the resurrection from the dead that one ultimately receives the power that brings salvation. In that salvation and sacrifice one can find reason and the power to change. We see all of this and more transpire until the last scene of the movie when we see one of the primary characters who have gone through their own individual changes, that change starts at the church, and concludes at the church with the cross blazing. It is as if Favreau is telling the audience that the church and the faith represented by the church allows for the power to conquer the demons of life, but it also bring about the ultimate change each individual needs. It is at the cross where the town of Absolution finds the power to forgive.

I didn’t think I would like this movie as much as I did. It has everything, for those who love westerns and for those who love thrills and aliens, it has all one would want. In a summer with a lack-luster group of films, it takes over as my new favorite of the summer spot from Super 8. Cowboys and Aliens is a film I will see again. I suspect that for those who love spiritual symbolism in films, as well as a entertaining good time, they will enjoy Cowboys and Aliens.

How much did I like this movie, on a scale of 1 – 10, while the 13 letters in Cowboys and Aliens add up to the unlucky number of 13, I will transform that number to a number of perfection, a very deserving and entertaining 10.

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