Movie Review: Hostiles
Hostiles, Christian Bale’s latest project, obtained a wide release this weekend after a limited release on December 22, 2017. Written and directed by Scott Cooper, the film follows a U.S. Cavalry officer who is tasked to escort a Cheyenne war chief back to his home in Montana in 1892. Christian Bale stars as Captain Joseph Blocker with Wes Studi playing Yellow Hawk, the Cheyenne war chief. Some of the supporting cast is also comprised of Rosamund Pike, Rory Cochrane, Jonathan Majors, and Jesse Plemons.
The film begins on a shocking note as a Comanche war party attacks a home and kills all but one person in the Quaid family. However, it quickly shifts to Captain Blocker (Bale) at Fort Berringer as he apprehends a Native American family who had tried to escape. After he is successful, he is informed by his commanding officer that there is one last service required of him before his retirement. He is tasked to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief he has battled in the past to his home in Montana. Blocker initially refuses to escort the man, but after the threat of court marshall and losing his pension, he reluctantly agrees. He and a few of his men embark on the journey from New Mexico to Montana with the chief and his family, but it is a trying journey as each must face their pasts and the dangers that lie ahead.
Hostiles is a western at its heart, and while westerns are not necessarily my favorite genre, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It takes place at an interesting point in time historically, and I feel like Cooper perfectly captured the tensions and mindset at that time. For a story that follows a group of people traveling through open country, it dabbles quite a bit into the costs of war, bringing to light the errors in both parties. The soldiers and the Native Americans have both killed and inflicted harm, and they each had their reasons for doing so. Through their journey, though, Cooper manages to weave this story of understanding and forgiveness.
The cornerstone of this film is definitely the characters, and I appreciate the personal journey that several find themselves on throughout the story. Rosamund Pike gives a fantastic performance as the widowed Rosalie Quaid and makes you feel the devastation that her character has experienced. Wes Studi gives a quiet yet powerful performance as the ailing Yellow Hawk, and all of the actors who portrayed his family brought heart to the story. Christian Bale as Joseph Blocker, though, was the highlight of the film. The character and his journey alone is fantastic as he lets go of his perceptions about his captives, but Bale brings it all together. He delivers on everything from his angry conversations at the beginning to his compassion and empathy for Pike’s Rosalie. The devotion of the surrounding officers to Blocker was also a touching piece of the storyline and performed well by all.
Hostiles may start out on a shocking and gruesome note, but from there it moves into a thoughtful narrative about war, compassion, and forgiveness. There were some shortcomings in the film, but most of it centered on pacing. There were a few points where the story was a little too slow, and it truthfully could have benefitted from cutting about ten minutes from the film. Also, there are a lot of wide shots of the group traveling via horse across these landscapes, but this is easy to forgive when the cinematography is so stunning. At the end of the day, all of these are fairly small complaints and did not take away from my enjoyment of the film. The story is engrossing, and it leaves a lasting impression on its audience. Hostiles is a great watch in the theater, but keep in mind that its violence makes it not an appropriate watch for younger viewers.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.