UK Release: 05/01/2018
Directed by: Scott Cooper
Starring: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi
Christian Bale saddles up for an old American Western in Hostiles.
And it’s actually pretty good.
Hostiles tells the story of U.S. Cavalry officer, Captain Joseph Blocker (played by Christian Bale) – a soldier who has spent years killing native Americans who must now escort a dying chief back to his homeland. It’s easy to assume that Captain Blocker is filled with prejudice and hate towards the native Americans – and there are hints that might be true.
But he’s far more complicated than that… and Christian Bale’s performance is sublime.
Captain Blocker is an interesting fellow.
For one thing, he’s the only person his Commanding Officer trusts to get the job done. He might hate the native Americans after everything he’s seen throughout the years, but he’s the epitome of the dutiful soldier… and his CO knows it.
But he’s also no saint himself.
Hostiles paints the picture of a man who hasn’t just walked among his enemies – he’s learned to be just like them. Snatched conversations between soldiers allude to his terrifyingly brutal past – killing hundreds of native Americans just as violently as they killed American soldiers. He’s a man who wears his past on his face – his weary, tired features reflecting every bloody moment on the battlefield.
In fact, brutal violence is a strong theme throughout Hostiles.
And it’s never more evident than in the film’s opening scenes.
It’s 1892, and rancher Wesley Quaid and his family come under attack at their home by a Comanche war party. The fight is bloody, brutal and results in the loss of not just Wesley, but his daughters and baby, too. The Comanches dispatch their prey with ruthless efficiency as they tear through the ranch… but his wife, Rosalie (played by Rosamund Pike) manages to escape. But she’ll never be the same again.
It’s not long before the suicidal mother encounters Captain Booker.
And the result, is several hugely emotional scenes where Booker essentially saves Rosalie from ending her own life… and decides to take her with him on his mission to deliver the Cheyenne chief back home. After all, he can’t just leave here there, and perhaps he can find help when they arrive at their first stop.
But what follows is a wonderfully human exploration of life in the West.
Unexpectedly, Rosalie begins to bond with the native Americans, and soon enough, it’s apparent that she’s in it for the long haul – accompanying Booker and his men all the way to the Valley of the Bears.
Essentially, Hostiles isn’t a surprising story.
In fact, it’s fairly predictable. But with stunning visuals and some incredibly heartfelt performances throughout, the movie manages to tell a simple story in a stunning way… and frankly, it reinvigorates the Western for the modern age. It has plenty of commentary on issues of race, gender, and plenty more besides.
But what really makes the movie are its actors.
Christian Bale is a brooding, sullen hero – everything that Bale does best. His performance is outstanding, bringing emotion and quiet contemplation to a man dripping with violence. It’s a real ballsy performance, and one of his best. And the same goes for Rosamund Pike, too. She manages to turn the suicidal Rosalie into a strong, independent woman… and while the era in Hostiles wasn’t exactly kind to women, Pike manages to make the whole thing believable. It takes a certain kind of acting chops to make this role work, and Pike really delivers. And the chemistry between Bale and Pike is undeniable.
All this, and a good, solid Western tale, too.
Hostiles is a grim and grubby examination of the American attitude towards native Americans… and it’s bloody brutal. Essentially, Hostiles could stand alongside some of the greats of the genre and wouldn’t look out of place – a real testament to the filmmaker’s skill and his cast’s emotional performances.
It’s gut-wrenching, heart-wrenching and dripping with thick, tense atmosphere.
Hostiles stars Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Stephen Lang, Jesse Plemons, and Jonathon Majors.
Scott Cooper both wrote and directed the movie.
Hostiles opens in cinemas on 5 January 2018.