Rosamund Pike, Christian Bale and Wes Studi deliver memorable performances in Hostiles, a terrific Western with a powerful message. The story involves a dangerous journey on horseback in 1892, and intriguing location shots in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona make us feel like we’re riding along with the people taking this perilous trip so long ago.
When Captain John Blocker (Bale) is forced to accept the mission of escorting Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Studi) and his family back to their home, he almost chooses being court martialed instead. After all, he’s used to fighting various tribes, not protecting Native Americans. But his orders come from President Benjamin Harrison, so he puts a small troop together and soldiers on. At the beginning of the trip, Blocker makes sure everyone understands that he does NOT trust his charges. Soon after the trip begins, the soldiers rescue Rosalie Quaid (Pike), a settler who has survived a bloody attack.
Many tragic incidents occur during this journey, but the interactions among Blocker, Chief Yellow Hawk and Rosalie slowly become more humane as the film unfolds. Fortunately, the three actors in these key roles are fascinating to watch. Bale makes us think of Gary Cooper or John Wayne in their popular Westerns. He doesn’t say much, but we know what he’s thinking by the look in his eyes. Studi brings gravitas and sensitivity to the project, and Pike gives her best performance ever playing a character who changes from an extremely frightened victim to one of the strongest women I’ve seen on screen during the past decade.
After bloodshed, battles and gore,
anger boils deep within one’s core.
True today as in our Old West
where everyone faced one big test.
Can trust be built with former foes?
An answer to that “Hostiles” knows.
Settler, Captain and solemn Chief
learn lessons while suffering grief
Kindness and strength pave ways to heal.
They open up hearts and help us feel.
This film may be one hard to see --
but it’s a great Western to me.
Thanks to filmmaker Scott Cooper -- working from his own adaptation of Donald E. Steward’s compelling manuscript -- for his careful direction of this gripping journey to the past. Masanobu Takayanagi also deserves recognition for his impressive cinematography and so does Max Richter for his atmospheric background score. And, last but not least, a fine supporting cast adds considerably to the movie’s realism.
(Released by Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures and rated “R” for strong violence and language.)
For more information about Hostiles, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.