Hostiles

‘Hostiles’ is a return to form for the western drama, and includes all-star performances from Rosamund Pike, Christian Bale, Ben Foster and others.

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Sporting a sensational moustache akin to Hollywood veteran Sam Elliott, Christian Bale teams up with 2014’s “Gone Girl” Rosamund Pike in the best western film since “3:10 to Yuma” (which also starred Bale in 2007). “Hostiles” recreates the terror and tension found back in the Wild West days of 1892. A bloody and violent history between the U.S. expansionism and the Native American population have left scars and wounds still fresh on both sides trying to heal. 

As well-known and battle-tested U.S. Army captain Joseph Blocker, Bale is charged with taking his bitter war rival from New Mexico to Montana so that the aging Indian chief can die among his Cheyenne people. Their horseback journey, including Chief Yellow Hawk’s family and a few of Bale’s handpicked security detail, is fraught with vicious daytime attacks and uneasy campfire nights.

The film does a splendid job of illustrating the mental struggles that Bale’s character must continually fight off to stay focused on the last mission for the 20-plus year Army veteran awaiting retirement. His years of fierce battling with the Native Americans nearly broke the captain, leaving him bitter and on edge. He must honor his Army service to the end while knowing that many skirmishes lie ahead with the savage Comanches en route to the Valley of the Bears tribal lands.

“Hostiles” is a powerful film due to the many relationships Bale endures or continues to foster. Other bonds must be let go. The dangers he and his men confront changes the group’s dynamics several times over the course of the two hour and 13-minute movie. On the risky trail, the feeling of relief is never allowed to settle in—knowing that circumstance and chance at survival can change at any given moment.

Keeping up with Bale’s steady and mesmerizing performance is Pike, as a widow and grieving mother of a family killed at the hands of the evil Comanches (or as Cheyenne chief Yellow Hawk calls them, “rattlesnakes”). We see Pike shine as she slowly regains her strength and compassion. All the scenes with Bale and Pike are earnest and heartfelt, watching both deal with shared horrors in their past and present.

“Hostiles” is a remarkable western film the likes of legendary John Wayne. Its strength and good-natured atmosphere come from Bale leading the charge. His humility and character along the perilous trek can’t be overstated. Bale’s grappling of emotions while remaining true to his Army responsibilities is an intimidating, fascinating endeavor to witness. Fans of the western genre will want to saddle up for this “Hostiles” ride. For the others, despite a couple of slow moments, the film will capture your attention with agony, fear, forgiveness, and honor. 

Patrick King is a resident of Tucson and writer for the Reel Brief movie blog at reelbrief.com. You may email him at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com.

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