Scott J. Cooper Miami has specialized in thoughtful, actor-oriented Hollywood genre for adults fare since his low-expectations and low-key debut, the 2009 comedy Crazy Heart (by Jeff Bridges): a Deer Hunter casts battle-scarred veteran in bleak steel-town setting lost in a land of deadly sport, 2013’s Out of the Furnace, which is a Boston gangsterdom’s violent story in 2015’s Black Mass.
This is an area that is underserved. On the other hand, Cooper’s sensibility has not progressed above a strangled, self-contained intensity.
Hostiles is a revisionist western based on an unfinished book written by Oscar-winning author Donald E. Stewart (Missing, The Hunt for Red October) before his death in 1999. It reunites Christian Bale with Scott Cooper, his Out of the Furnace director.
With the dramatic thriller Out of the Furnace and the Whitey Bulger biopic Black Mass, the latter cemented his reputation as a filmmaker with the Crazy Heart in 2009, a country musician drama (for which Jeff Bridges won an Academy Award), and then established himself further as a storyteller interested in mood/performance-driven fare.
Hostiles is a decent effort that feels in line with Cooper’s greater filmmaking legacy, even if it falls short of upping the bar for quality in his own work. In its critique of the American West’s deadly heritage, Hostiles is gloomy and slow-burning to a fault, but superb performances keep the film on course.
Captain Joseph J. who is “Joe” Blocker (Bale) is a U.S. Cavalry officer in 1892 who has a shady reputation after spending years hunting and killing Native Americans in the American southwest.
Joe is commanded by Abraham Biggs, his officer Colonel, played by Stephen Lang to transport the long-incarcerated Cheyenne war leader Yellow Hawk played by legendary Wes Studi to his home, now that Yellow Hawk Montana is nearing death due to cancer.
Although Bale is significantly less caricature-like in the various scenes that hint at the terrible Blocker’s possible salvation, this rush of psychological suffering appears to be planned to pulse throughout the film’s arduous cross-country voyage.
Army Capt. Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale), the hero of Hostiles, is assigned an unwanted mission: safeguarding Cheyenne war chief, Yellow Hawk suffering from cancer, from New Mexico to Montana’s Valley of Bears.
Blocker is compelled to participate by the prospect of losing his pension, but he is infuriated by the assignment. Cooper originally gets viewers to believe that the man dislikes Native Americans so much that he would sooner commit suicide than carry out his mission.
Rosalee Quaid (Rosamund Pike), the solitary survivor, is found inside a homestead that has been assaulted and burned nearly to ashes. Two of her babies are still wrapped in blankets (“they are asleep,” she claims).
Blocker tells his coworkers to be polite of the kids and keep their pace quiet. It’s a eccentric job to bring together this figure of real sympathy and thrilling focus with the preceding wobbling brute who reflexively utters “bitches” and “bastards”, the disjunction only seems a sign of the main character with complexly conflicting empathies than a expression of Blocker’s sketched psychological fuzziness character.