Director Jon Favreau has managed to do what no one else has ever been able to do before. For one thing, he's merged the lasso-swinging, ranch-dwelling cowboys of yesteryear with the slime-throwing, multiplying peculiarities of the aliens of the future into one very entertaining movie. And secondly, he managed to make Daniel Craig look believable as cowboy fighting off pesky aliens on a dude ranch. It sounds crazy, but Cowboys and Aliens actually works.
Craig stars as Jake Lonergan, a cowboy who's struggling with a terrible case of amnesia. He ventures onto a town reminiscent of the OK Corral and is deemed a wanted man by the townsfolk. He's got a mysterious bracelet wrapped tightly around his wrist (similar to Hal Jordan's ring in Green Lantern, but way cooler) that he can't take off, but is his secret weapon against the other life form. After he proves that he's villainous enough not to be messed with by even the scariest in town, including hardened cowboy Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) and his ridiculously slapstick son, Percy (Paul Dano), he joins forces with them to help fend off an alien invasion. Yes, aliens have attacked their town and threatened to snatch up all the townsfolk. Jake, Woodrow, the town doctor, Doc (played by Sam Rockwell), a mysterious ally, Ellen Swenson (played by Olivia Wilde), and a slew of other cowboys plot to take down the alien force in true blockbuster form.
Craig somehow turns what could have been a ridiculous story into something very believable. His strapping yet sensitive approach to Jake really draws audiences in. Ford recaptures his alpha male character recycled from the Indiana Jones franchise and holds up his own as the older school cowboy and grandfather figure of the crew. Although Wilde actually has the weakest performance out of the bunch, her character is central to the plot and climax of the story.
In true cowboy movie form, Favreau intertwines the Native American characters in the story (led by an understated performance by Adam Beach as Woodrow's second in command, Nat Colorado). Rather than being on opposing sides, the Native Americans act alongside the other cowboys to protect their collective land against the ultimate invasion. Quite an innovative approach to the western genre. But that's another thing about Cowboys and Aliens; just when you're about to write it off as just another western or just another sci-fi flick, Favreau throws a wrench in that theory. From the cool special effects, to its top-notch acting and wickedly fun concept, Cowboys and Aliens is just that film that you may in fact hate to love. But it is really enjoyable.