Title – Hostiles (2017)
Director – Scott Cooper (Black Mass)
Cast – Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Jonathan Majors, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons, Adam Beach, Ben Foster, Stephen Lang, Timothée Chalamet
Plot – Set in the wild west of America in 1882, famed Army Captain Joseph J. Blocker (Bale) must escort a dying Indian chief across the violent plains, despite his many year’s of fighting and killing the chief’s own people.
“Sometimes I envy the finality of death. The certainty. And I have to drive those thoughts away when I wake”
Review by Eddie on 07/12/2018
In 2009 actor turned director Scott Cooper delivered a great debut film in the form of the Jeff Bridges starring country music themed Crazy Heart, but since then has struggled to enact upon his potential as a filmmaker with the fine yet forgettable Out of the Furnace and Black Mass, film’s that promised a lot yet delivered only partly on their premises and name brand casts, that included the likes of Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
What a pleasure it is then to report that after the promise shown in year’s past, Cooper has with his 2017 western Hostiles delivered a mesmerizing, emotionally charged and hauntingly beautiful examination of the end days of the American west, in a film that’s lead by a powerhouse performance from Christian Bale and fantastic support from Gone Girl superstar Rosamund Pike.
Proving once more that there’s life yet in the well-worn and now oft-underused western genre, Hostiles is far from your typical adventure in the wilds of the early American landscape, a land that was filled with blood, mistrust and tension, as Cooper follows Bale’s legendary Army captain Joseph Blocker as he and his comrades are forced to escort Wes Studi’s dying Indian Chief Yellow Hawk and his family across the country back to their rightful lands, to live out a peaceable existence after an horrific yet captivating opening segment opens the film.
Picking up Pike’s traumatised widower Rosalee Quaid along the way, after Rosalee and her family were the victims of a terrible Indian attack on their homestead, Hostiles sets up a melting pot of emotions and feelings as the mismatched group of humans trek across the land and face more than their fair share of trials and tribulations to accomplish their initially simple objectives.
Much like this seemingly simple set-up however, Hostiles will not be the film you think it to be as it takes its well planned and unpredictable turns to become a carefully and thoughtfully constructed examination of the human conditions as well as a timely reminder to what lay at the heart and soul of the American foundation.
Filmed beautifully by DOP Masanobu Takayanagi (capturing this unforgiving yet stunning landscape with a fresh and captivating eye) and scored thoughtfully by famed The Leftovers composer Max Richter, Cooper’s film becomes an all-round package of cinematic goodness that will leave you often feeling breathless and hypnotized by its execution.
Front and centre of these happenings is Bale, who arguably delivered one of the turns of his esteemed career as Captain Blocker.
A man we never get deep insights to, we know and understand that Blocker has seen and done things no man should have to live through and his relationships with both Chief Yellow Hawk, Rosalee’s broken wife and mother and also Ben Foster’s off-kilter soldier turned murderer that his company must also help deliver Philip Will’s will mould and shape Blocker on his journey that becomes the heart and soul of Cooper’s film.
The best his been in years, Bale is supported by an on form ensemble that includes the likes of Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, Timothée Chalamet and Adam Beach, while Pike is more than up to the task when required with her raw and heartfelt turn as good as anything she’s ever done.
Final Say –
Hostiles is a sad and at times bleak film, an experience that at times will be tough to sit through but it’s also a film filled with grace, mercy and importantly come its final frame a glimmer of hope.
Cooper has with Hostiles crafted one of the finest westerns of the modern era that’s delivered wondrously by his leading man.
Undervalued by audiences and critics on its cinematic release in the United States during the crowded awards season rush, it’s a mighty shame that Hostiles took so long to arrive on Australian cinema screens as Cooper’s film is one of, if not the year’s best films, and a fascinating look back at a time in American history many would rather forget.
5 angry Hershel’s out of 5