I’m a big fan of the Western genre if it’s done right. Christian Bale does not often disappoint. So, naturally I was pretty excited to see this movie.
The film takes place in 1892. It is about an army captain (Christian Bale) who is ordered to gather his men and transport a notorious Cheyenne Chief and his family back to their home land. Along the way, they clash with a group of Apaches.
The film was written and directed by Scott Cooper. The noteworthy cast includes Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Adam Beach, Jesse Plemons, Ben Foster, Stephen Lang, Scott Wilson, Q’orianka Kilcher, Tanaya Beatty, David Midthunder, Rory Cochrane, and Peter Mullan.
This is the second time that Cooper has directed Bale. The first time being in the film Out of the Furnace (2013). Cooper also previously directed Jesse Plemons and Rory Cochrane in Black Mass (2015). This is the second western that Christian Bale and Ben Foster have been in together. The first one was 3:10 to Yuma (2007). Ben Foster and Jesse Plemons were also in the movie The Program (2015) together.
Hostiles does an excellent job recreating the late 1800s in the “Old West.” The set and costume design are spot on.
The film swiftly grasps your focus like a gut-wrenching kick to the stomach. It knocks the wind out of you before slowing down to allow the story to unfold. Like most Westerns, Hostiles runs at a slower pace. The movie pauses to allow you to take in its surroundings. The soundtrack and scenery contribute nicely to the overall dark tone of the film. The characters are permitted to develop naturally as the actors are able to take their time to actually act. Nothing is rushed. The precision in the details makes the movie feel convincingly more real.
It’s a breath of fresh air to watch a movie, in this day and age, that doesn’t solely rely on special effects and action to tell the story while leaving acting and writing in the back seat. Occasionally, Hostiles does feel a little slow, but I think that is just because of all the fast paced action that we are used to Hollywood throwing at us. In this case, the longer the film goes on, the more you appreciate it for what it is.
Bale imposed his will upon this film with an eerie presence. The presence of a war-torn honorable man who had been dragged through hell and forced to do terrible things to survive. His acting is impeccable and he is allowed to shine in Hostiles.
Rosamund Pike gave a good performance. She was not treated like a set decoration like so many actresses are, these days.
This film is unique because the characters seem to be put in situations where they react more to their environment. The rough road that they are on can be seen in the actors’ eyes and felt on screen.
I do feel like some of the actors in this film were not used enough. However, at the pace that the film travels, it could’ve been a much longer road had they not cut their time short. I can see how this might have taken away from the story. So, I like the direction that it ultimately went.
Overall, Hostiles is a darker, worthwhile Western with substance. Christian Bale carries the film, but it’s obvious that Scott Cooper wanted it that way.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
If you enjoyed Hostiles, you might also like:
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
The Revenant (2015)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)