Friday, January 19, 2018


Hostiles is a wagon train movie, without the wagon train. Christian Bale stars as Capt. Joseph J. Blocker, a career solider who has spent the better part of two decades fighting Native Americans in the late 19th Century. A reluctant Blocker is ordered to escort an old enemy (Wes Studi) and his family (Adam Beach, Xavier Horsechief, Q'orianka Kilcher, and Tanaya Beatty) from New Mexico to Montana and deliver them safely home after years of being prisoners of the Union Army. Along the way, the group will pick-up a woman (Rosamund Pike) whose family was brutally killed in the film's opening scene and a prisoner (Ben Foster) with a connection to Blocker's past.

After the initial attack on the Quaid farm, Hostiles falls back into a slow burn of a film as former enemies and strangers will have to rely on each other to make the dangerous trek across country. Writer/director Scott Cooper's adapted screenplay doesn't reinvent the wheel and relies mostly on strong performances to carry a rather straightforward plot that never quite succeeds in presenting Blocker and his prisoners as equals due to the vastly superior amount of time the camera spends on the former compared to the later.

Western fans will no doubt enjoy the scenery and the old-school pacing of the long trek through the wilderness. For others, the performances of Bale as a brutal, but good, man and Pike as a woman struggling with facing reality given her recent loss provide nearly all of the film's best moments. Studi steals a moment here and there, as does Rory Cochrane as Blocker's right-hand man, but there's no question to whom this film belongs. While I felt the end of the story was a bit weak, the journey here is what really matters, and, with that in mind, Hostiles succeeds fairly well.

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