A slow but compelling western that unfurls with purpose.
Who are the savages? The ones in cages, in chains, or in the dirt? Or the ones in uniforms, with guns, the ones who put them there? The theme of violence is front and centre in ‘Hostiles’, a contemplative western that explores what killing does to a man, and the everlasting effects it has on the mind and soul.
Christian Bale puts in a powerful, layered performance as army captain Joseph Blocker, who reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family back to their tribal land. But the journey is fraught with peril as he discovers the landscape is crawling with vicious Comanche’s. So he must set aside his hatred and band together with the chief in order to survive…
Writer-director Scott Cooper adds another great film to his filmography here. ‘Hostiles’ has a stately pace that occasionally feels laborious in the middle, but it also commands attention. Characters are exposed as the flawed people they are, harbouring regrets for pasts which prove difficult to escape from. Redemptive paths are blurry, challenging to navigate, but most importantly there – something for each one to aim for, especially Bale’s conflicted protagonist.
The film is also visually stunning. The widescreen format allows the pleasant open grasslands and glorious mountain ranges to stretch across the screen, while the cinematography is impressive throughout when capturing group conversations or brutal shootouts. This is primarily a drama, but but it’s almost impossible to keep the violence at bay in this part of history.
Overall, ‘Hostiles’ is a western well worth investing time in. It takes its time to develop its characters which makes the end results all the more satisfying, and Scott Cooper’s direction and Christian Bale’s performance are of the highest quality.
Score – 8/10