In 1890’s America, Cavalry Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) is tasked with escorting Cheyenne war chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) back to Montana as part of a peace deal with the President. Blocker is vehemently opposed to this. Citing a bloody history where Yellow Hawk’s tribe slaughtered many of his men, he is given no choice but to obey – do this or be court-martialled without any pension.
’…nothing and nobody is quite who they seem in a narrative landscape that now embraces nuanced characters instead of black and white clichés.'
Director Scott Cooper’s ‘Hostiles’ arrives on a neo western plain where many other revisionist westerns have already trod. In keeping with this revitalised genre, nothing and nobody is quite who they seem in a narrative landscape that now embraces nuanced characters instead of black and white clichés.
As an actor responsible for many fine performances, actor Christian Bale adds another conflicted character to his fine resume with the put-upon Joseph Blocker. In what could have been a routine, embittered portrayal, Bale hints at Blocker’s competing emotions all kept in check by his overriding professionalism. Special mention should also be made for Rosamund Pike’s performance as damaged mother Rosalee Quaid. Shell shocked and uncertain, she brings an unhinged complexity to all of the male distrust on display.
Modern westerns when done right, can escape their one dimensional pasts of ever virtuous cowboys and permanently savage indians and couple insight with understanding. In this regard, ‘Hostiles’ is another movie that can join ‘Dances With Wolves’ as a decent action film that also uses shaded characterisation to redress a decades-long imbalance.