Hostiles – Movie Review – A dark character driven Western.

Hostiles is set in 1982 and follows the legendary army captain Joseph J. Blocker, as he reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne Chief and his family through a dangerous territory.

I knew very little about this film when I sat down in the cinema to watch it but let me make this clear, this film fiercely grabbed my attention from the very opening scene. It was harrowing and brutal and it did not shy away from showing violence being inflicted on children. I know the year has only just begun, but I’ll be very surprised if this at the very least isn’t mentioned during discussions for the best opening of 2018, come the end of the year.

From there we follow Christian Bale as Capt. Joe Blocker. His performance here is nuanced and terrifically acted, he conveys so many impactful emotions in moments of silence, not too many actors have the quality needed to pull this off. This film feels like a character study in many ways. We think we know all of what there is to know about this man, but as the film progresses more about him is revealed, and other things are left for us speculate about and come to our own conclusions on. All of this amounts to a character that I felt myself becoming more and more intrigued by as the film went on, and his character journey felt organic and earned.

Rosamund Pile portrays Rosalie a mother who after losing her family is left utterly destroyed. She is found by Capt. Joe Blocker in an emotionally and psychologically damaged state after witnessing what had occurred to her family. Rosamund’s performance is astonishing, she acts out moments of extreme distress in such a realistic manner that made me feel as if, I felt the pain of her loss and that resulted in me feeling so sympathetic towards her. I couldn’t really tell where her character journey would lead her, but I was very satisfied with where it went and Rosamund had a great on screen dynamic with Bale.

The supporting cast members were strong as well, Jonathan Majors performance as Corp. Henry Woodsen was a great surprise. There’s one specific scene Majors shares with Bale that told me everything I needed to know about their working relationship together, and both actors were so emotionally raw with their performances that I was really struck by it. Rory Cochrane plays Master Sgt. Thomas Metz and like many of the others he gave an emotion filled performance that resonated with me really well. Wes Studi was also great as Chief Yellow Hawk, he often had to convey a lot without that much dialogue and managed to do it competently.

The script really does deserve a lot of credit, I’ve grown to appreciate it even more than I initially did after thinking about it for the past couple days. The dialogue is dense and there’s a lot of it, but it’s mostly very engaging. There’s a few reoccurring themes that present them self at different points through out the story, that I’m looking forward to exploring and analysing further. One of them is the theme of death. I can’t really go into how it is such a reoccurring theme, but that choice is a great one. The quietest moments of the film prevail in this story, there’s a handful of long engrossing dialogue sequences between two characters. Those sequences feature superb writing that presents us with some of the film’s core themes, and also gives us small insights into each of the characters, in particular some of the supporting characters. Through these scenes we learn more about them and get subtle hints about their pasts, but in a way that never feels forced and abrupt.

Scott Cooper’s direction is wonderful, he balances the dialogue heavy sequences against a scare amount of action in a way that felt rewarding and impactful when it occurred. He gave his dialogue scenes time and room to breathe, and he was never afraid to allow the camera to linger on one shot for a long while, so that the actors were given the freedom to truly act without the restriction of a shot or scenes length. Back to the action, those scenes are handled very well. They are startling and effective. At no point does anyone feel safe and completely immune to death.

This film is definitely a slow burn, it takes it’s time to develop and unravel upon the viewer. I see this as a positive but I think it’s worth noting, because if you head into this film expecting a faster moving action western then you may leave disappointed. It clocks in at just over two hours and ten minutes and despite being such a slow burn, it never felt as long as it is and it never dragged, the two hours flew by.

The cinematography is at times beautiful, Masanobu Takayanagi takes advantage of the landscapes and locations to create some stunning imagery of people on horseback. The only downside is I could’ve done with more of that. The same can be said for the musical score, at times it was great, but it wasn’t as good as it needed to be to truly elevate the film.

Overall Hostiles is a dark engrossing character driven western, that is a slow burn but all the better for it. The performances from Bale and Pike are tremendous, and the script explores thought provoking themes very well due to being excellently written.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

(4 Stars Out of 5)

-T.Graham.

Hostiles – Starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Rory Cochrane, Ben Foster, Wes Studi and Jonathan Majors.

Directed by Scott Cooper.

-Now showing in U.K. Cinemas.

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