“Hostiles” stars Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, and Ben Foster. Released on December 22, 2017, the film is about a U.S. Cavalry officer who journeys to return a Cheyenne war chief back home in Montana.
The film is directed by Scott Cooper, who also directed Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace, and Black Mass. I was speculating on seeing this for a couple of reasons. One of those reasons is that it wasn’t nominated for anything at the Oscars. The other reason is my concern over its pacing since my experience with Cooper’s last film, Black Mass, was pretty slow despite my appreciation for it. From a marketing perspective, however, the film does look interesting because of its cast and its depiction of the 1800s. Since I had nothing better to do, I decided to check it out anyway to see whether or not it deserves some awards recognition.
Christian Bale leads the cast as Joseph J. Blocker, a captain who is ordered to perform one final job before his retirement. While far from his best performance, Bale did wonders in portraying a stern, yet vulnerable, man who has a troubled history with his escort, Yellow Hawk, who was played remarkably well by Wes Studi. Out of all of the performances that I experienced during the film, I would say that Rosamund Pike stood out the most as Rosalie Quaid. Rosalie is an emotionally scarred widow whose family was killed by a Comanche war party. The way Pike portrays Rosalie was pretty uneasy during a couple of moments, but it’s the type of uneasy that’s done in a more realistic and investing approach. If you’ve been following Scott Cooper’s filmography for quite some time, you’ll easily notice that the director likes to keep his stories nice and slow, and this film is no different. Whether you’re into slow-paced movies or not, the film offers plenty of slow-moving scenes that gives audiences more time to enjoy the sceneries that surround the characters. For me, the pacing in this film felt a bit uneven, especially during the conversations between the characters, so that can be a big turn-off for those who want a fast-paced action film. To its credit, Cooper did a really impressive job at showcasing the violent and depressing world in the 1800s in terms of the production design and the portrayal of the Native Americans. The cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi was also very pleasing to the eyes, especially the traveling sequences. Unfortunately, those technical achievements weren’t quite enough to help its storytelling reach its full potential. For a movie that has an accurate portrayal of the 1800s, it should’ve have a story that’s rich and full of emotion in terms of the characters and the dangers that they’re facing. I wasn’t really disappointed in it since it somewhat delivered what it offered in the marketing, but I thought there were plenty of moments that could’ve been handled a lot better.
Overall, “Hostiles” has a very small chance at impressing a lot of people due to its pacing, its average storytelling, and its disheartening concept. On a technical scale, it’s a beautifully-shot Western film that provides solid performances (mostly from Pike) and its impressive production design. Based on what I saw, I can understand the fact that it hasn’t gotten any recognition from the Academy since there were plenty of other award-potential films that were vastly superior in terms of storytelling. However, I felt bad that it didn’t join the other nominees for Best Cinematography or Best Production Design because those two things were my personal highlights of the film. It’s worth a watch for these technical achievements alone, either at a matinee price or as a rental, but if you’re not into slow and depressing films, feel free to skip this one.
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