How does one cope with violence or the harsh conditions of where we live? Director Scott Cooper (who teams up with Christian Bale again from Out of the Furnace) creates a dark, grim atmosphere set in the world of Men vs. Savages. Hostiles takes us into a world where Native Americans and white men still fight with each other, bringing up the scars of war and violence that unfolds into a tense thriller that flows from scene to scene without resorting to fun gun-play and over-the-top violence. The result is a fresh Western film that will probably will be regarded as a modern classic.
Hostiles opens with a scene that I think will go as one of the most shocking intense scenes in recent years. Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), a wife and mother loses everything in just a few minutes and her life manifests into a heart-breaking reality of witnessing the violence that will be around her for the remainder of the film. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) delivers an unforgettable performance as an emotionally-wrecked woman whose life changes when she meets the legendary Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale).
The world of Hostiles shows us the fact that men and savages are common enemies. We invaded their land and now things have never been the same. Being so close to retirement, Blocker is given one last assignment, something that sounds easy on paper. He is to escort a dying Cheyenne War Chief (played perfectly by Wes Studi) and his family back home to Montana in 1892. As you can imagine, the trek there will be long and treacherous; not to mention the possibility of who they might run into on their journey. It’s kill or be killed. Dangerous territory. Survival of the fittest.
The supporting cast does great work and there are moments of reflection when Master Sergeant Thomas Metz (Rory Cochrane) mentions what it’s like to kill a man. “It isn’t the man, the woman or the children you kill; it’s the men that you lose.” Cochrane does work here that shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s a broken man, a man who has many scars buried underneath his uniform and his face shows the scars of the things he’s seen and done. Blocker, too has these scars and memories. He knows Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and has seen the things he has done and the reaction when he has to escort this man to Montana is not only hurtful, it’s practically an offense. But since Blocker can speak their language and knows the land, he’s the best one of for the assignment as ordered by the President of the United States.
At its best Hostiles is a brutal movie, filled with violence that is off-putting and shocking. The relationship between man and Indian is also very well done, something that is hardly mentioned in the history books. These men have a history with each other and they carry the shadow of war with them every day. I love the idea of Hostiles exploring soldiers and everyday people dealing with their feelings of violence. Talking about PTSD before the term was even coined gives these characters depth, understanding and performances that are well worth the experience from the actors.
Verdict 4 out of 5
Hostiles is very violent and overlong especially two-thirds of the way in, but I enjoyed watching the characters and the story unfold. I felt like I was roaming the plains of the west with a gun in my hand wondering if I’m really safe. The script which was based off the manuscript by Donald E. Stewart (best known for his award-winning screenplay for the 1982 film Missing) creates fully-fleshed out characters, an incredible sense of depth and with the direction of Cooper, is one of the best Western films I’ve seen this decade. The musical score by Max Richter reminded me of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (who provided the soundtrack for The Road and Hell or High Water). There are a lot of revelations in Hostiles and if you enjoy Western films, add Hostiles to your list as a must-watch!