Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) directs the action with aplomb from a script written by the likes of Roberto Orci (Star Trek, Transformers 1 & 2) and Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof (among others).
The film is based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name and stars Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace), Harrison Ford (Morning Glory) and Olivia Wilde (House).
Set in Arizona in 1873, Daniel Craig's character, Jake Lonergan, wakes in the desert with a strange metal bracelet firmly attached to his arm. He has no idea who he is or how he got there. After wandering into the nearest town, he tangles with the son of Ford's Col. Dolarhyde which brings him to the attention of not only the local sheriff but the Wilde's character Ella.
As it turns out, Jake is a wanted man with a $1000 bounty on his head. He's captured but before he can be spirited away to face justice, bright lights appear over the town and rain hell-fire on the awestruck citizens before snatching up any people who are unlucky to be out in the open, including Col Dolarhyde's son.
During the chaos, Jake's bracelet comes to life and starts shooting energy bolts, which he uses to free himself and shoot down one of the lights.
The craft's inhabitant escapes but is wounded. Realising it can be tracked, Col. Dolarhyde forms a posse to follow the creature and get his son (and the other kidnapped people) back.
While the set pieces are alright and the action scenes are exciting, the movie falls down in its script, tone and its internal logic.
Veteran actors Ford and Craig deliver their lines with a forced gravity. It's like both can see the ridiculousness of some of the lines and to combat that, they ham it up just a touch.
Although we know Jake has no memory of who he is, we don't see the confusion that would be expected. Sure, he's a badass coach robber but basically the minute he comes in the desert, he starts kicking head not asking, "Who am I and what's this metal thing on my wrist?"
Ella is never really explained either until well into the second act which is quite weird. From the point of view of the audience she just appears in the film and seems to know a little about what's going on but that's it. In fact, (I'm told it happened but I don't remember it) until I asked a friend after the film, I wasn't sure Ella was named until well into the second act.
I get the feeling that explanatory scenes were filmed and discarded during editing so as to keep the pace flowing.
The tone also shifts wildly between periods of melodrama, action and comedy which might work in a film with a better script but in this it's just kind of jarring and nonsensical.
Also, and this bit just stuck in my craw for its ridiculousness, Jake is chasing a craft that has snatched up Ella on a horse. Fair enough, trying to rescue the female lead. But he manages to catch up to it (on a horse), overtake it (on a horse) and then jump onto the craft (from a horse) in an attempt to rescue Ella. I know any movie involving aliens needs a suspension of disbelief but come on, a horse is not going to be catching up to anything mechanical that can fly. The science says "no".
You may think from my criticism I hate this film. I don't. I mostly enjoyed it.
But it isn't Shakespeare.
If you want a fairly dumb, simple story with some great action set pieces and some explosions then this is for you. Just don't expect anything more.
I'd already decided that this was a movie that was definitely not for me, but I love your review - great description and evaluation. Sounds like something for the teenage boys out there (I mean suburbia, not space!).