The modern western isn’t exactly anything spectacular. Not since the days of Eastwood, Wayne, and director Sergio Leone have westerns truly shined consistently. There is the occasional gem that pops up but for the most part it would seem the glory days of the western are well behind us. While Hostiles isn’t the saving grace of the modern western it is one of those gems worth the time and money. It strives for realism even when or especially when that realism is man at its ugliest. In fact I would argue this is the point of the film. When faced with a mission, one man and his regiment must face the brutality of man both in the encounters of strangers and those among the group. They must face their own histories as it stares them in the face demanding retribution. Hostiles is all man past and present navigating the pitfalls of living in a lawless land where savagery is survival.
Christian Bale turns in a subdued but haunted performance as Capt. Joseph J. Blocker who at once prides himself in his “work” and abhors the actions of his past that have led him where he is. He hates the Natives but strives to find a sense of peace with them despite his stubborn nature. He is in a sense at war with himself and he is tormented because of it. Hostiles thrives in the misery of man and no one in this film suffers more than Rosamund Pike’s character. In a flash of pure violence and mayhem Rosalie Quaid loses all that she holds dear and therefore must find a place in this world without the sense of who she once was. She cannot fathom existence without everything she has just lost and so reality is now one long, unwavering nightmare that plagues her every waking moment. In her pain and listlessness she finds sanctuary in the presence of Capt. Blocker, a fellow wailing soul.
Along for the journey is Wes Studi who plays Chief Yellow Hawk and possesses just as dark of a past as his lifelong enemy turned escort, Capt. Blocker. Blocker is a man of duty and despite the violent history between Hawk and himself, Blocker must maintain order and deliver Hawk to his homeland to live out his final days as a sick man but a free man.
This is a film with zero innocence on either side of this genocidal war. Any innocence found is killed with absolute violence and lack of compassion. But lack of innocence does not mean one cannot forgive and find some semblance of a soul in the calm found in the forgiveness and helping of others, especially those you once hated. Together they all must find the path of trust and in that trust will come a removal of their most heavy burdens that have been altering everything about them as human beings. This is where the true tragedy lies; the fact that everyone here is human but the smallest variances somehow create in the eyes of each an irreconcilable gap that cannot be bridged. It is in their forced comradery that they find the distinction of each person is something that should be upheld and protected. They must combine compassion and mutual savagery to navigate such a harsh frontier of those seeking to take from them by any means.
Scott Cooper directs Hostiles and his previous efforts will give you an idea of the grittiness Hostiles possesses. From Out of the Furnace to Black Mass, Cooper thrives in the darkest corners of man’s psyche and showcases these once hidden areas with unforgiving clarity. Among his most insatiable, detestable characters are where his stories find their momentum. Often times, as is the case with Hostiles, his protagonists are difficult to separate from those deemed the villains. He likes to bring about questions of morality such as if the actions of the hero are acceptable if they lead to the demise or capture of the so-called villain(s)? Should the hero still be considered redeemable if their actions in the process of stopping their nemesis are considered less than humane? If the hero loses their soul are they still the saviors of the story? Can the villain(s) find redemption despite a dark, checkered past?
Hostiles is without humor and filled with horrors of the man made variety. This is a story of villainous but honest humans seeking redemption in the wake of still oncoming obstacles that challenge the very idea of absolution. They seek the souls they once left behind and must do so in the trust of those they once considered adversaries. To quote another film: “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.” Hostiles aim is to show this in repeated examples of abhorrent violence and never once shies away from the realities of human error and earnest desire for atonement.
Rated R For: strong violence and language
Runtime: 134 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Western
Starring: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Bill Camp, Jesse Plemons, Ben Foster
Directed By: Scott Cooper
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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