Set in the barren and lonely wilderness of the West, Hostiles lays the foundation for a country that is harsh and unforgiving. From the outset, the audience is forced to witness the brutality of conflict. The feelings gained from these opening scenes dictates the tone for most of the film.
Hostiles is a story of survival and being capable of making difficult decisions, as they can be the difference between life and death. Army Captain Joseph Blocker, played by Christian Bale, is a soldier preparing for retirement. However, before he can retire, he must carry out one last assignment. Blocker is tasked with the responsibility of escorting Chief Yellow Hawk, an ailing Cheyenne war chief, to his ancestral home upon release from imprisonment. Wes Studi plays the part of this stoic Native. Accompanying the two men are the soldiers under Blocker’s command and Yellow Hawk’s family.
It is made clear early on that Joseph Blocker and Yellow Hawk have a less than amicable relationship and that the history they share has pitted them as fierce enemies. Blocker is conflicted with the task at hand, initially refusing to do it. Threatened with a court-martial and the withholding of his pension, the army captain has no other choice but to get the job done. This forces Blocker to deal with his past and the demons he has carried throughout his life. As the story progresses, the group faces a series of difficulties.
The performances by Bale and Studi deserve praise. Their interactions throughout the film, often tense, keeps the audience engaged. Rosamund Pike joins the group early on, playing Rosalie Quaid, and becomes a central character in this story. Her performance is chilling, emotional and inspiring.
Hostiles is slow moving, but remains steady. The gradual passage of time can be felt and it allows the story to be fleshed out fully. The landscapes shown throughout the film are breathtaking, emphasizing the beauty and vastness of the West.
This film is thoughtful and explores the realities and consequences of war. It focuses on the morality of men and how they interact with the world around them. Hostiles, while a fictional story, highlights an important period of American history and how this nation dealt with Native Americans. It is, in every way, a true Western film and ought to be viewed by audiences all over.