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Hostiles: A Bleak Western That Features Beautiful Visuals and Legit Mustaches

May 2, 2018

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Hostiles is an uncompromisingly bleak film that manages to find beauty in several powerful scenes. Director Scott Cooper (Into the Furnace, Crazy Heart) has crafted a memorable vision that is full of beautiful vistas, brutal death, and committed performers. As the film wanders headlong into violence there are welcome doses of hurt/hope that I found to be refreshing because I liked the flawed characters and could tell the actors inhabiting them relished their moments to monologue, shed tears or dig graves with their hands. The cast is stacked  (Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Adam Beach, Q’orianka Kilcher, Scott Wilson, Rory Cochrane, Stephen Lang, Jesse Plemons, Ben Foster, Timothee Chalamet) and if you are a movie nerd like me you will dig The New World and 3:10 to Yuma reunions.

Hostiles is a meditative character study that relies on silence and the occasional outburst of violence that was common in the western states in 1892. The film opens with a group of “snake” Comanches perpetrating a brutal attack on a family of homesteaders and killing everyone except the mother/wife Roselee (Rosamund Pike – always good). The isolation of the cabin and the sudden attack of the Comanches creates a bleak world that just keeps getting bleaker as the story unfolds.

The core story revolves a bigoted Captain named Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale – great mustache) being tasked with escorting his former nemesis Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family back to his former tribal lands in Montana. After being imprisoned for many years, Yellow Hawk’s health is failing and his request to be buried on his tribal land gets picked up by the press and government officials and given the utmost importance in an effort to develop a kinder narrative between the army and Native Americans. Blocker is not happy about the assignment, but when threatened with a court-martial he assembles a team of loyal soldiers and new recruits who will most certainly be tested during the journey.

The mustache is legit.

The caravan is soon joined by the incredibly distraught Roselee who has been living in the burnt down remnants of her home and caring for her dead daughters (very bleak). She is initially frightened of Yellow Hawk and his family but as the journey progresses she becomes close to the family and it leads to more bleakness. What follows is a movie that isn’t afraid to add layers to its characters and then kill them quickly. It all builds to a powerful final scene that somehow manages to create hope for characters who probably never thought they’d have a life after what they’ve seen and done.

Hostiles is a tough film to watch but I loved the cinematography, meditative pacing, and performances. You should give it a watch.

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