Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the desert, not that he knows who he is as he is suffering from amnesia whilst dealing with a fancy looking shackle locked around his wrist. But after discovering he has wicked gun skills and a fearless attitude when dealing with 3 gun toting cowboys he heads to the nearest town only to discover from Sheriff John Taggart (Keith Carradine) that he is a wanted man. It seems that Jake's past including murder, arson and robbery, in particular the theft of gold belonging to Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) who happens to own the town Jake is in. Just as it seems Jake and the Colonel are going to face off alien spaceships dive bomb the town and these enemies as well as the mysterious Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde) join forces to deal with these alien invaders to the Wild West and rescue their friends and family who have been abducted by these aliens.
There is a simple truth which I feel that those in control of movie making should remember, some times less is more. I say that because "Cowboys & Aliens" is one of those movies with a good start and a decent end but what goes on in the middle ends up feeling drawn out which at times struggles to command your attention like the start and end of the movie does. Despite this there is no doubt that the whole idea of "Cowboys & Aliens" is an amusing and original one as seeing the classic sort of western characters deal with in this case rather ferocious aliens is entertaining and packed with potential.
Now I said that the middle of "Cowboys & Aliens" feels drawn out and in truth the problem comes down to the envisioning of the movie. What I mean is that the opening few scenes are full of snappy action from Jake dealing with 3 cowboys to establishing his fearless attitude when he deals with Dolarhyde's son when he reaches town but in doing so they make Jake some sort of super hero style character. And it is entertaining and well put together but it means during the middle part of the movie where the focus needed to be on character depth, conflict and feelings it struggles to really go there, preferring to toss some okay action and special effects at the audience, keeping them on the line till it reels them in when the big action packed ending comes flying in.
Now let me tell you the truth as I like Harrison Ford but the more movies I seem him in these days the more I am convinced he is playing the same character in them all, delivering the same gruffness, the same style of dialogue and the same looks to the camera. And Ford is part of the reason why "Cowboys & Aliens" struggles in that middle section as he doesn't bring out the depth of the character. On the other hand Daniel Craig not only brought a great deal of Steve McQueen to his performance, being the action hero but also some emotional depth, he should make a few more westerns as he has that old style action hero element down magnificently.
What this all boils down to is that "Cowboys & Aliens" is entertaining but it is a movie which struggles with a middle section where the character depth needed to take over and in the end this makes it feel drawn out.