If you’re going to make a movie called Cowboys & Aliens, there better be some cowboys and aliens. In combining the two genres, the filmmakers had two options, miraculously create some sort of scenario that feels raw and believable or just go all out, embracing absurdities of both. Forget the fact that the former would have been a near impossible achievement; who wants to watch some schmaltzy drama about cowboys fighting aliens? The filmmakers not only go for the latter option, but they strive to outdo any expectations we might have formulated and, sure, it’s ridiculous, but the big screen is one of the best places to live out such a ridiculous fantasy.
A man wakes up in the middle of the desert with a gash in his side and some ort of metal contraption on his wrist. He’s got no clue who he is, where he came from or what happened to him. It isn’t until he moseys into the nearest town that he discovers he’s a wanted man, Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig). Too bad it’s the town sheriff (Keith Carradine) that makes the discovery, as Jake’s got no time to escape. Just before Jake’s about to be shipped out of town, Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) rides in demanding he serves Jake his justice as it’s his gold he stole. The boys are distracted from their bickering by strange lights in the distance. Within seconds, they’re dead overhead and aliens are raining down their firepower on the tiny Arizona town and snatching up the citizens.
When the battle’s over Dolarhyde and his men saddle up to hunt down a wounded alien that could potentially lead them to their abducted loved ones. He insists on somewhat pushing his differences with Jake aside, as that shackle on his wrist turns out to be their only defense against the invaders. Also along for the ride is a mysterious woman named Ella (Olivia Wilde) who insists that she and Jake can work together to bring an end to this.
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