At The Movies: Hostiles

Joseph Blocker is a captain in the U.S. Cavalry in the late 1800s. He’s done some pretty horrific things in his country’s service while clearing the land of its native inhabitants.

Yellow Hawk is a Cheyenne war chief. He’s done some pretty horrific things in service to his people while trying to stop the U.S. government from taking over the land.

How these men deal with their violent pasts in a still violent world is the subject of “Hostiles,” a bloody and engaging new Western by writer/director Scott Cooper.

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Hawk (Wes Studi) has spent the last few years in prison in Fort Berringer, New Mexico, and is slowly dying of cancer. The president has decided to grant the Indian leader his last request — that he and his family be allowed to return to their tribal lands in Montana.

Blocker (Christian Bale) is given the thankless and dangerous job of escorting Hawk and his family on their journey. The two men have a bloody history together and Blocker wants nothing to do with Hawk, but with his pension on the line he puts together a small team to make the fateful trip.

Not far down the road they encounter the burned out remains of a farmhouse. Inside they find Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), the sole survivor of an attack by a Comanche war party. Out of her mind with grief, Rosalie is persuaded by Blocker to join the group.

Blocker and his company will encounter a great deal more violence and tragedy before reaching their destination.

Based on a story by Donald E. Stewart, “Hostiles” is a dark tale with a smidgen of hope. Pretty much everyone involved is scarred in some way before they begin this journey and those who survive will not do so unmarred.

It’s a tense and compelling movie highlighted by another strong performance from Christian Bale. Masanobu Takayanagi should also be noted for the film’s impressive cinematography.

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