Note: This is a spoiler-free Hostiles review
The modern western is officially having a resurgence. It seems there is a prominent western that is released every year, and they continue to get critical acclaim. The latest rendition features a pair of prominent actors and a wide-ranging story.
Hostiles takes you on a big, epic journey and checks off more than a few boxes to make it worth the watch.
Full disclaimer right off the bat: some people will find this movie a bit slow and long-developing. I suggest that you already enjoy this type of film before spending the money on a night out. Think The Revenant. Think Dances With Wolves. If you enjoyed those films, then you’ll enjoy Hostiles.
That said, the story is very well done. Set in 1892 the battle between the Union and Native Americans, Comanche specifically, continues to rage on. For his final mission, a legendary Army captain is tasked with taking a Cheyenne chief whom he considers a great enemy back home. The subsequent journey is what you see in the film.
What makes the Hostiles story so great is the multiple facets to it. The film almost has an episodic feel, with the multiple phases the journey covers. Everything comes together in an excellent and emotional way.
Full marks to writer and director Scott Cooper here. Cooper has adapted a manuscript written by Donald E. Stewart for the screen, and done it well. Since Cooper is also the director, now is a good time to mention he does a good job taking advantage of the setting. The entire film takes place in big, open territory and makes for a lot of beautiful shots in the cinematography department.
The legendary army captain who leads the journey is Joseph J. Blocker, played by Christian Bale. Each twist and turn effects every man and woman on the trip, but Blocker is the one who is in constant turmoil. He is a man broken by war and at his wit’s end while facing constant challenges from both Native Americans and fellow Union soldiers.
Bale really dives into the character of Captain Blocker, as we’ve come to know and expect from the actor. He’s somehow raw and vulnerable while still seeming emotionless at times. The character shift that takes place is palpable and noticeable; Bale deserves much of the credit for that.
Also a focal point of Hostiles is Rosalie Quaid, who has had her life broken by Native Americans in her own right. Played by Rosamund Pike, Quaid goes through a shift that proves parallel to Captain Blocker’s; they’re just going parallel in opposite directions. As Blocker displays more emotion on his last journey, Quaid is exposed to the harsh realities of dangerous American territory on what is clearly her first journey. The contrast between the two makes for an interesting dynamic.
Pike is a great actress. She proved that in Gone Girl. Her and Bale elevate each other in the scene’s they’re in together. The chemistry is crystal clear.
Should I Go See Hostiles?
Hostiles is categorized as a western by many, but I would consider the film a drama first with a western setting. If this genre of movie suits you, Hostiles is done at a high level.
Image courtesy of the Hostiles Facebook page