Film Review: “Hostiles”–The Hostility of the American West Unveiled in Scott Cooper Western

Film poster: “Hostiles”

Hostiles (Scott Cooper, 2017) 3 stars out of 4.

Director Scott Cooper continues his love for complex and trouble protagonists in his latest film Hostiles starring Christian Bale, Wes Studi, and Rosamund Pike.

The year is 1892 and the tension between Native Americans and the white man in America has reached its brim and is expected to spill over into the new century. At the heart of this tumultuous prejudice is Army Captain Joseph Blocker (Bale) and imprisoned Cheyenne war veteran, Chief Yellow Hawk (Studi). Blocker’s superior orders him to take Yellow Hawk on a cross-country trip to Montana where the old man and his family can live the rest of their days in peace. Only time will tell if the lawless Wild West terrain and a rogue Comanche tribe will Blocker and his party into hostiles.

Just when we thought Christian Bale had hit his peak as an actor, he manages to elevate his acting status into legend. Bale finds the deeply hidden empathy in Captain Blocker who has lived the better half of his life steeped in unabashed racism. A majority of his performance is quite understated and given through hardened glares, but it’s his conversations with Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi that solidify the potent message of shared hostility among men and women.

Rosamund Pike and Christian Bale in HOSTILES ©Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

Just like the ground they travel on, these characters live in dry and unbreakable moments of life. Bale and Pike each have an opportunity to let the audience see them as untouchable powerhouses but when they aren’t defending themselves from rogue Comanche and white pioneers, the cast carries out scenes where little human emotion is expressed in any knowledgeable form. However, like the film’s title suggests, these characters are individuals who could compare their emotions to the empty and endless vastness of the American West.

Scott Cooper’s Hostiles will not be this year’s most viewed film. In fact, it’s highly likely, it will go unsung like so many other films in past years. Films like Hostiles need time to germinate with people. It’ll start with higher DVD sales than ticket sales which will lead to a dedicated cult fan base and then finally the praise this film deserves will make its belated appearance. Trust me and you’ll see for yourself.

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