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Hostiles (2017) - Movie Review

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Hostiles - Movie Review

4 starsThe uncertainty, danger, and vulnerability of life on the wide-open plains of late 18th-century America is summed up perfectly by Rosamond Pike’s character, Rosalie when she says, “I sometimes envy the finality of death. The certainty.” She’s a prominent character in Scott Cooper’s (Black Mass) frontier epic called Hostiles and she’s speaking of the indiscriminate violence that blurs the distinction between people who were opposed to the existence of someone different during our country’s westward expansion.

It is this period in America’s history that serves as the setting for Cooper’s tale that seeks to honor the legacy of the western genre and pay tribute to its great storytellers while simultaneously pointing an accusatory finger at the cancerous divisiveness and polarization that plagues today’s humanity. And he mostly succeeds with a story that is as timeless as it is relevant and as brutal as it is thought-provoking. Plus, it’s just darn beautiful to look at. Cooper shoots for all the feel-goods that accompany the rich themes of redemption, reconciliation, and healing. And while he hits that target dead center, it’s the soul-searing journey to get there that will leave its permanent mark on your psyche.

The film opens as Rosalie has just endured a vicious attack on her home and family by a renegade band of Comanches that killed her husband, two juvenile daughters, and even the infant son she carried in her arms. Yes, there is blood, and yes, they kill babies. This is not your Daddy’s western. Rosalie barely escapes the Comanche slaughter by hiding in the brush, setting the stage for the revenge portion of Cooper’s tale to come.

The scene cuts to a fort in New Mexico where Cavalry Captain Joseph Blocker (a wonderful Christian Bale), a man who built his career on reciprocating the ruthlessness of the Native Americans he’s spent decades fighting, is seen treating his Cheyenne prisoners with the same amount of savagery. Capt. Blocker finds himself unable to accept – or even understand – the changing sentiments towards Native Americans in the waning years of the century. So when ordered to escort the aging Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), who himself was responsible for the death of countless Americans, back to his tribal lands, Capt. Blocker refuses, only agreeing once his military pension is threatened. With a handpicked escort squad of soldiers (played by Jesse Plemmons, Timothy Chalamet, Jonathan Majors, and Rory Cochran), Capt. Blocker sets out on the thousand-mile trek that will prove to be quite the transformative experience.

Hostiles becomes a road trip movie of sorts with Capt. Blocker’s men escorting Chief Yellow Hawk and his family (Q'orianka Kilcher, Xavier Horsechief, Adam Beach) as they take risks and encounter dangers along the way on a near daily basis. First up is happening upon the burned-out remains of Rosalie’s ranch with the distraught mother still clutching her lifeless infant. Naturally, Capt. Blocker decides the humane thing to do is to take her along until they reach safety. Next, upon stopping at a military outpost, they agree to transport a criminal (Ben Foster) to Montana where he will face justice for his crimes.

As the posse makes its way across the hostile countryside, it soon becomes obvious that their biggest challenge will be putting aside their differences and working together to defeat the deadly encounters that begin to pick away at the dwindling party. And that’s Cooper’s biggest lesson – in order to succeed, to move forward, it is necessary to do so together. Listen to understand someone else’s way of life. It is the quickest path to acceptance and healing.

Lessons, morals, and messages aside, Hostiles is a beautiful film to behold, with the actual expanses of the Colorado and New Mexico landscapes standing in for themselves. Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi certainly knows where to put the camera for the most beautiful shots that counter nicely against some of the most challenging subject matter you’ll encounter this year. It is violent, it is abhorrent and it is often difficult to watch. But sometimes we must be forced to step outside our comfort zone to realize how uncomfortable we really are.

Hostiles - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, and language.
133 mins
: Scott Cooper
Scott Cooper
Scott Shepherd, Rosamund Pike, Ava Cooper
: Western
We are all hostiles.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I sometimes envy the finality of death."
Theatrical Distributor:
Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
January 18, 2018
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Set in 1892, Hostiles tells the story of a legendary Army Captain (Christian Bale), who after stern resistance, reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief (Wes Studi) and his family back to tribal lands. Making the harrowing and perilous journey from Fort Berringer, an isolated Army outpost in New Mexico, to the grasslands of Montana, the former rivals encounter a young widow (Rosamund Pike), whose family was murdered on the plains. Together, they must join forces to overcome the punishing landscape, hostile Comanche and vicious outliers that they encounter along the way.

No details available.

Hostiles - Movie Review

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