A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. ― Ken Keyes Jr.
Hostiles (2017): 9 out of 10: A cavalry officer (Christian Bale) escorts a dying Cheyenne chief (Wes Studi) and his family to his native burial grounds. On the way, they meet a woman (Rosamund Pike) who has just lost her family to violence.
The Good: Christian Bale is fantastic in this film. Not just solid (like the rest of the cast) but out-and-out fantastic. This is one of the best performances I have ever seen by any actor.
The rest of the cast are no slouches either. Rosamund Pike, in particular, brings some gravitas and grief to a role that could have easily gone sideways.
The film is beautifully shot. Almost too good looking. It seems that Bale’s character chooses a route based on the number of picture-postcard vistas.
The Bad: You have seen this story before. A lot. The acting and cinematography bring it to a new level, but this is a straight retelling of an ancient tale. The movie also takes its time. Not as bad as one might think, but there is definitely a slow steady pace interrupted by violence.
The Ugly: This is not a cheerful, feel-good film. While I enjoyed myself, I understand how others might find it tough sledding.
In Conclusion: A little while ago I saw the Tommy Lee Jones directed “The Homesman” starring himself, Hilary Swank and Meryl Streep of all people. It told a similar story to Hostiles. It wasn’t very good. The Homesman knew it was a western and told a tale meant perhaps as an allegory. It was a tool for people to overact (Jones in particular) while the director (Jones again) kept filming the horizon as if it had never been filmed before. I find the modern western is often a minefield of good intentions, beautiful vistas, and often boring cliched storytelling.
Hostiles feels as if it doesn’t know it is a movie. The characters seem like real people dealing with real situations the best they can. There is nothing fundamental in the story that makes this film special. In poorer hands with a journeyman director and Mark Wahlberg in the Christian Bale role, it would be a cliched mess.
Christian Bale commits fully to the role and carries the film on his back. He makes it over the finish line without even breaking a sweat.