posted 11 May 2018, 14:00 by Paul Woodward

Genre: Western / Drama

Stars: Christian Bale / Rosamund Pike / Wes Studi / Rory Cochrane / Ben Foster / Jesse Plemons

Director: Scott Cooper

Certificate: 15

Run Time: 2hr 14mins

Year: 2017

Set in 1892 towards the end of the ‘Indian Wars’ in the United States, a legendary cavalryman Joe Blocker reluctantly escorts Cheyenne chief Yellow Hawk to his people’s sacred homeland in Montana from his current prison in New Mexico. With the First Nations people been pushed reluctantly onto ‘Reservations’ the US government are looking to find peace so allowing the cancer riddled Yellow Hawk to go home to die is seen as a gesture of peace. The two men fought on very bloody opposite sides of the wars where many atrocities were committed by both sides, so it makes for an uncomfortable journey. They pick up Rosalee Quaid near the beginning of the film whose entire family was recently murdered by raiding Comanche warriors.

‘Hostiles’ is a very dark and often grim story, it highlights the affects the things we do have on us and how we cope with them. The film centres on Blocker and you see his character evolve and deal with his hatred of the First Nations people and also contend with his own crimes which until now he’d always justified based on what had happened to him. Christian Bale is without doubt one of the best and most consistent actors of his generation and his stoic, vengeful Blocker is brought to life full of sourness by Bale, who then slowly shows the journey changing him and dealing with the guilt of his own crimes.

It can be very grim as the film deals heavily with death and how the human mind copes with tragedies both committed and those received. You see Blocker have a slow change of heart and sees him become more understanding of others, his protectiveness of the strong willed Rosalee who is wonderfully performed by Rosamund Pike is essential to his growth as his connection to her seems to bring out his humanity and a different look on life – she is critical to his changed outlook and even though she comes into the story as a broken woman her attitude towards Yellow Hawk and his family speeds up Blockers humanity returning.

Rory Cochrane plays Blockers long time Master Sargent whose service in the army over a bloody twenty-year period has affected him tragically – all the atrocities he’s witnessed and been part of had left him dealing with severe depression – referred to at the time as ‘melancholia’. His character highlights that matter what we do in life, justified or not, weighs heavy on our consciousness and can take its toll.

The film is sympathetic to the treatment of the First Nation’s people, whilst never turning a blind eye to just how bloody the wars were on both sides. The film is very good at highlighting we are all just human regardless and are more similar than our differing cultures may suggest.

It’s a very atmospheric film, with lots of stunning cinematography and we are presented to some really beautiful landscapes. It’s excellently directed by Cooper who gives us a very thoughtful and emotive film, despite its dark tone and themes, it actually leaves you feeling a little hope and positivity by the final scene which was extremely emotive and a truly fitting scene, it wouldn’t have been believable any other way. The direction by Cooper at times is fantastic and some shots evoke similarities to legendary director John Ford.

It is a very deep film which needs you to focus on it, but it is a truly rewarding experience if you enjoy films which aren’t all explosions and saccharine sweet happy endings. People who appreciate the Western genre will love this film! A truly great film, a modern western classic.


Review by Woody