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Cowboys & Aliens (2011) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • The Old West.. where a lone cowboy leads an uprising against a terror from beyond our world. 1873. New Mexico Territory. A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of Absolution don't welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde (Ford). It's a town that lives in fear. But Absolution is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky. Screaming down with breathtaking velocity and blinding lights to abduct the helpless one by one, these monsters challenge everything the residents have ever known. Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation. As this gunslinger slowly starts to remember who he is and where he's been, he realizes he holds a secret that could give the town a fighting chance against the alien force. With the help of the elusive traveler Ella (Olivia Wilde), he pulls together a posse comprised of former opponents-townsfolk, Dolarhyde and his boys, outlaws and Apache warriors-all in danger of annihilation. United against a common enemy, they will prepare for an epic showdown for survival.

  • In the Old West, an amnesiac stranger awakes in the middle of the desert wounded in the belly with a bracelet in one of his wrists. He is attacked by thieves but defeats them. He rides a horse and heads to a former mining town, where the local preacher treats him. Then he sees the youth Percy Dolarhyde, who is the son of the powerful farmer Woodrow Dolarhyde, bullying with the bar owner Doc and the other locals. When Percy provokes the stranger, he reacts and beats up on Percy. The local Sheriff John Taggart arrests Percy and he finds that the stranger is the wanted Jake Lonergan. The sheriff returns to the bar with his deputies to arrest Jake, but he subdues the men. However he is hit on his back by the mysterious Ella Swenson and he faints. Jake is arrested and when Sheriff Taggart is ready to take Jake and Percy in a coach to deliver to a Federal Marshall, Woodrow arrives with his men ready to protect his son. But they are attacked by spacecrafts that abducts several dwellers, including Percy, Doc's wife and the sheriff. Woodrow organizes a posse to seek out the kidnapped people in a dangerous journey against an advanced race of aliens. Meanwhile Jake Lonergan has glimpses of his past life and they learn that someone among them may help them in the fight.

  • A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys and natives are all that stand in their way.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • In 1873, Arizona Territory, an unnamed loner (Daniel Craig) awakens in the desert injured, with no memory, and a strange metal band shackled to his wrist. He wanders into the small town of Absolution, where the local preacher, Meacham (Clancy Brown), treats his wound. After the stranger subdues Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), who has been terrorizing the populace, Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine) recognizes him as Jake Lonergan, a wanted outlaw, and tries to arrest him. Jake nearly escapes, but a mysterious woman named Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde) knocks him out.

    Percy's father, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), a rich and influential cattleman, arrives with his men and demands that Percy be released to him. He also wants Jake, who stole Dolarhyde's gold. During the standoff, alien spaceships begin attacking the town, and Percy, the sheriff, and many townsfolk are abducted. Jake shoots down one ship with a device concealed in his wrist band, ending the attack.

    Dolarhyde, Ella, and some townsfolk form a posse to track an alien that may have ejected from the downed ship. Jake, meanwhile, travels to an abandoned cabin, and in a flashback, recalls returning there with the gold just before he and a woman, Alice, were abducted by the aliens. Jake returns to join the posse. During the night, the alien they were tracking appears and kills Meacham, who sacrifices himself to save Emmett, Taggart's grandson.

    By the next morning, most of the posse has deserted, and the others are attacked by Jake's former gang. Jake, who stole the gang's loot after their last heist, attempts to retake control, but fails. As he and the others flee, the aliens begin attacking again and Ella is seized. Jake jumps aboard the ship and attacks the alien pilot, causing the ship to crash, but Ella is mortally wounded.

    Chiricahua Apaches capture the posse, blaming them for the alien attacks. As Ella's body is dumped on a fire, she is fully resurrected. Ella is actually an alien who traveled to Earth to help humans resist the invaders after they destroyed her homeworld. The aliens, who have been abducting humans to perform experiments on, are also mining gold to power their machines. They are not invulnerable, however: Jake's gauntlet weapon can kill them, as well as stabbing and shooting, though the creatures are far stronger and more durable than humans and have superior weapons. Ella claims Jake holds the secret to the aliens' whereabouts and says they must stop them before they exterminate all life on the planet. After taking Mescaline offered by the Indians, Jake recalls that Alice died in an alien experiment, but he escaped, inadvertently stealing the alien weapon. He can also remember the aliens' hidden location.

    Armed with this knowledge, the group, now led by Colonel Dolarhyde, prepares to attack the aliens' grounded mothership. Jake returns to his old gang and persuades them to join the fight. In a sneak attack, the humans breach the spaceship, forcing the aliens into a ground battle. Jake and Ella board the ship and free the captives, but Jake is captured. Dolarhyde rescues him and both men escape the ship after killing the alien leader. As the remaining aliens are taking off in their damaged craft, Ella sacrifices herself, destroying the ship using Jake's gauntlet.

    Jake's memory partially returns, and some abducted townsfolk can recall their past. Still a wanted man, Jake decides to leave; the sheriff and Dolarhyde say they will claim that he was killed. The citizens intend to rebuild the town with the expectation that the newly discovered gold mine will soon bring many new settlers.

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