Review: Cowboys and Aliens (12A) ***

BASED on the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, Cowboys & Aliens is a rootin’ tootin’ action adventure that melds the western and science fiction genres with a blitzkrieg of digital effects.

While Harrison Ford possesses the weariness of a man who could conceivably have kicked up his spurs in 1870s New Mexico, co-star Daniel Craig swaggers around in figure-hugging leather chaps and a shirt unbuttoned to the navel like James Bond at a fancy dress party. We’re not remotely surprised that he opens the film by disabling three bandits on horseback.

Nor do we bat an eyelid when his character out-canters an alien spaceship along a canyon ridge and leaps from the turbo-charged nag onto the otherworldly craft. Preposterousness aside, Cowboys and Aliens gallops along at a fair lick and director John Favreau (Iron Man) orchestrates the set pieces with aplomb.

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Jake Lonergan (Craig) wakes in the desert with a gunshot wound, a large metal bracelet on his wrist and no memory of who he is or how he came to be in the dirt. He struts into town and is unmasked as a killer with a sizeable bounty on his head.

Arrested by the sheriff and bound for prison alongside Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), Jake makes his escape from the prison coach during a devastating attack by extraterrestrial craft. Percy is abducted and the boy’s powerful father, Woodrow (Harrison Ford), vows to rescue his son and he press- gangs Jake into accompanying his posse.

Cowboys and Aliens dodges the bullet of the 3D format and concentrates on old-fashioned action with 21st- century visual trickery. Craig exudes the same amount of charisma as the wooden scenery but he is a brooding physical presence and the camera sensibly focuses on his chest and posterior. Ford provides fleeting comic relief and also pockets the film’s best emotional scene, sharing a tender moment with a Native American in his posse, who he has always treated as a surrogate son. Olivia Wilde’s feisty femme almost feels surplus to requirements, unable to generate any sexual chemistry with Craig because of his character’s tragic back story. So she is gifted a pivotal role in the final showdown that isn’t entirely deserved but does allow Favreau to leave the saloon door ajar for a potential sequel.

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