Hostiles is a Western Drama/Adventure following Joe Blocker (Christian Bale), an army captain who reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief (Wes Studi) and his family through dangerous territory back to their land. The Western has forever been one of the most heavily explored genres film, from the works of John Wayne going back to the late 1930’s all the way up to the mid-late 2000’s with the likes of 3:10 to Yuma (2007). But recently it seems the genre has almost disappeared, there is the occasional western that hits the big screen but the fact of the matter is they just don’t make them like they used to. I thought this movie overall was somewhere between ok to good, it boasts a brilliant performance from Christian Bale and good supporting performances but suffers from a story that can’t seem to find its tempo. The movie isn’t an action packed slugfest set in the old west, there’s a lot of reliance on dialogue and slower character building sequences to progress the plot forward.
The highlight of the film is undoubtedly Christian Bale’s incredible moustache-wielding performance at the centre of the film. Whenever he is on screen it’s hard not to be drawn entirely to his character because of the amount of emotional intensity he puts into every scene. Seeing as though this film was eligible for the 2018 Oscars due to a limited release in the US I don’t know why there wasn’t a greater push for Bale to get a nomination because he more than deserved it. This world is as brutal as it is racist and being a white male in this world Bale’s character says some pretty vile things but being a sign of the times it’s not taken as him being a dick, just him being accustomed to the typical behaviour. Rosamund Pike does star with a good supporting performance and has a number of strong emotional moments but sometimes overcooks it a little bit. Her character has a good arc nonetheless and covers a lot of ground from where she begins. Some other good performances include those from Wes Studi, Rory Cochrane, and Ben Foster. The rest of the supporting roles aren’t really as heavily featured to really make a major impact.
This all takes place in a very brutal and unforgiving part of the world where danger lies around every corner and to some extent you do always have that feeling of constant impending danger. The film does have some very strong dramatic moments to keep you in the story, and some powerful emotional scenes where the actors are forced to use their facial expressions and limited dialogue to tell a story. There are a decent amount of brief action sequences but at the same time there is a lot of downtime where the pacing suffers. At too many points it feels like it is dragging a little too slow and where the performances do manage to retain my engagement it results in a story which feels a little too uneven. But when the more intense action sequences do hit they are very well choreographed and shot in a way that doesn’t hide the pure brutal nature of this world. The cinematography in here is also very well shot with great wide sweeping landscapes that highlight every corner of the screen. Director Scott Cooper has done an overall pretty good job here and as with Johnny Depp in his last film Black Mass (2016) he knows how to get incredible performances out of his lead actors and that has saved this movie.
So, in the end I’m on the fence about this movie I liked a number of aspects about this western story from the performances to the action and a couple of the character arcs but the way the story progresses in an uneven manner let me down as I was very much anticipating this movie. I might still check this one out again just to take in the entire story once more but for now I’m going to stick it with a positive but mediocre score. The main reason you should see this movie is for Christian Bale’s killer performance or for a mini 3:10 to Yuma reunion with the presence of Ben Foster. If you are a fan of the western genre then I say definitely check this one out because in todays movie climate it’s not like you can wait a month for another awesome western to hit the big screen.