Cowboys & Aliens is a unique, genre-bending thriller

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Academy Award winning producers Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg have created a new genre-bending thriller with Cowboys & Aliens. The adaptation of Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s intriguing graphic novel brings to life an innovative concept: What if aliens were to invade during the life and times of the Wild West cowboys?

All of the classic elements of sci-fi and western are combined into one innovative flick thanks to the brilliant script penned by Damon Lindelof (Lost, Star Trek). Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Hercules, Xena: Warrior Princess) also contributed to the script as did Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (Children of Men, Iron Man).

Spielberg spoke highly of the western, sci-fi genre bending. He said the scriptwriters have done a fantastic job combining the elements and keeping it original. “They’ve made it all real from the standpoint of the characters. Even if the aliens never came down in this film, there’s still a tremendous story of conflicted characters….If it was just cowboys, it would be a pretty darn good cowboy story. If it was just aliens, it would be a pretty good alien story unto itself, but then when you combine the two it’s wonderful.”

The story takes place in late 18th Century New Mexico. After losing his memory, lone traveler Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) stumbles upon a desert town called Absolution. Tension is heavy in this town and all authority resides in the merciless Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), who commands every move with ruthless precision. He immediately takes a disliking to the mysterious traveler, so he and his gang set out to confront him with lethal force if necessary. Tension builds between the characters and then the unthinkable happens. Aliens bring down a reign of terror on the townspeople, destroying the village abducting them one by one. This startling scene jolts Jake’s memory and he realizes that he may have the power to defeat the aliens.

Production designers sought to bring this world to life by mixing traditional western props with more high-tech alien technology. Using records from Apache Native Americans and European Settlers, they were able to create props and scenery authentic to that period. Mary Zophres, who got Oscar attention for her costume design in True Grit, is no stranger to the western genre. Her costumes in Cowboys & Aliens are distinct and original.

Some of the special effects in the movie required precision and dedication on the parts of the production crew and the actors. In the abduction scene, laser lights were attached to swinging cables, explosions detonated in the background and actors were propelled 60 feet in the air by large cranes with wires attached to them. One of the film’s actresses, Ana de la Reguera said this scene required a great deal of precision and accuracy. “We had to have everything lined up at just the right moment: the horses, the lasers, the yelling, the explosions. Sam [Rockwell] and I said our lines, and then at the perfect beat they pulled me up.”

Cowboys & Aliens releases on July 29, 2011. It is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.

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