August 10, 2011
What should have been a big, fun romp, was actually a pretty dull slog. It started off pretty good, but quickly went south as the plot began to kick into gear. The movie mashes up a pair of tried and true genres, the western and the alien invasion. The problem is that taken on their own, neither genre piece is all that good. They are mediocre on their own and when taken together fail to feed off each other. It is not easy to generate energy from the combination of two lackluster pieces. It is not quite Green Lantern bad in the blending of two different movies. In fact it is neither bad nor good, they are just there, waiting to be watched but not offering much of anything in return.
The movie opens with Daniel Craig waking up in the middle of nowhere. The year is 1873 and the man has a bloody wound on his side, a strange metal bracelet on his wrist, and no memories other than that he speaks English. He is soon approached by a few dirty cowboys who see him as a possible reward opportunity. Their hopes a short lived as the man shows he is no slouch at taking care of himself.
He makes his way to town where we meet the barkeeper named Doc (Sam Rockwell), as well as the spoiled son, Percy (Paul Dano) of the towns resident bad guy, Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). Here is also the mysterious Ella (Olivia Wilde), who seems to know more than she is letting on. There are a few other characters along the way, but none are all that memorable.
In any case, Craig, whose character turns out to be a wanted man named Jake Lonergan, gets on Dolarhyde's bad side. They are setting up to be our pro and an-tagonist, but the aliens show up and ruin everything. The interesting. Thing, despite the title and the fact they are aliens, the characters in the movie do not know the concept of aliens, so they refer to these interlopers as demons. Interesting.
Well, the aliens fly around at night strafing the country side with bombs and using some flying rope rigs to snatch people up into smaller flying vehicles. This occurrence brings the would be enemies into an uneasy truce as they head off across the dusty landscape to find the people that were kidnapped and do battle with whatever baddies they may find.
There are moments and pieces that I like, but overall the story felt flat and lifeless. Nothing ever took off to truly capture my imagination. Daniel Craig seems born to play this mysterious good guy, a latter day Clint Eastwood type, but in a movie like this I think some wonder needs to creep into his stoicism. As for Harrison Ford, he seems lost, a shell of what he was. In short he just does not look comfortable on the screen. Olivia Wilde? She looks great as usual, but is relegated to blank wide eyed stares. Sure, she has a bit of a pivotal role, but it is handled in a casual, ho hum fashion.
Overall, this movie has no wonder, no genuine excitement. Everyone accepts everything in stride. Here is no much in the way of panic. You would think the arrival of demons would spark a little more questioning curiosity, wonder, excitement, and fright than it does. This is a big missed opportunity to have made a movie that is a lot of fun. Better luck next time.
I did like the open bit, right through Jake's encounter with Percy. The opening shows some promise, albeit as a western. I could be persuaded to watch it again, but it is not going on the top of the list.
Posted by Christopher Beaumont at 8/10/2011 10:59:00 PM
Chris has been an avid movie watcher for decades, getting into the writing game in 2004. Since that time he has contributed to a number online publications as well as running CriticalOutcast.com. In addition to movies, Chris is a big fan of music, particularly metal, and will never give up hope on his beloved Mets.