Film Review - Hostiles
Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Director – Scott Cooper
Writer – Scott Cooper
Cast – Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Jesse Plemons, Ben Foster, Wes Studi, Stephen Lang, Rory Cochrane, Adam Beach, Q'orianka Kilcher, and Timothée Chalamet.
Plot - Late 19th century, wild west. Tensions are fraught between native clans and settlers. When army captain Joseph Blocker (Bale) is tasked with escorting a dying captive Cheyenne war chief and his family to their native tribal lands in Montana, he reluctantly agrees to travel across the hostile lands. On the way, he rescues a widow (Pike) of a murdered family and strives to complete his mission despite the difficulties of the lands and factions desperate to prevent peace. For those with a weak stomach, Scott Cooper's Hostiles may not be the film to see. The opening section alone is a brutal, shocking introduction to this otherwise relatively slow-paced western. However, when the pace picks up, the intensity is well managed and nearly always incredibly violent. To describe Cooper's latest directorial (and screenplay) effort as a mood piece would be a gross understatement. The film is languid, with as much focus given to showing off the (admittedly, gorgeous) scenery than to dialogue. Thematically heavy but lacking plot originality, Cooper offers a visually stunning entry into the wild west genre with some delicate pathos - sensitive characters dealing with cultural integration - and he does well to showcase the brutality of the period setting with due care to both sides. Blocker is introduced as a bitter, native Indian hating, seen-it-all army captain that needs one more mission completed before he can retire. Cliché certainly but Bale brings intensity; his gruff demeanour mirroring his gravely tones (occasionally so low that you will be straining to hear some of the more hushed lines). Pike is reliably strong as the traumatised widow Rosalee Quaid and their chemistry is equally satisfying. The supporting cast is a plethora of riches (Plemons, Chalamet, Mullan, and Foster, to name a few) and for the most part elevates the material although there isn't an outright star performance. The third act does sag a little; the funereal pace almost overwhelms however the performances and direction are compelling enough that it never derails for too long. Ultimately, Cooper has once again created a solid entry in a genre which has been played to death (his previous Black Mass was a gripping yet overly familiar mob movie). However, Hostiles' setting has been beautifully realised and with strong central performances, Cooper has provided a graphically violent and morally engaging western.