Hostiles

Hostiles

MojibMojib   October 05, 2017  
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Hostiles
Hostiles
Hostiles movie 2017

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2017
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Filmmaker Scott Cooper does not make “easy” movies. His debut feature Crazy Heart was a rough look at a washed-up country singer; Out of the Furnace chronicled unforgiving life in modern day Appalachia; and Black Mass was an unflinching look at the crimes of Whitey Bulger. For his latest feature, Cooper continues his streak of hard-edged films, but this time he’s working within a genre that’s a perfect fit for his sensibilities: the Western. Tackling issues of Native American displacement and the reverberations of violence, Hostiles is an unforgiving look at an unforgiving time filled with unforgiving people. While the pacing can get frustratingly languid at times, and there’s a bit of a disconnect between theme and what’s on screen, Christian Bale terrifically anchors this memorable and haunting entry in the Western genre.
The story sees Bale’s character reluctantly agreeing to escort his former rival, a dying Cheyenne war chief played by Wes Studi, and his family back to their tribal lands. On their journey from New Mexico to Montana, they pick up a young widow (Rosamund Pike), whose family was murdered on the plains. Together they face the harsh landscape, hostile Comanche tribe, and vicious outliers.

Hostiles is a re-imagining of a decades-long script from Donald Stewart, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 1982’s Missing.
It’s undoubtedly a handsome-looking picture, slow of pace, with beautifully, even stunningly composed widescreen images from cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi and a sinuous score from Max Richter. The violence of the white pioneer and the Native American in the old West are set up against each other, and (tacitly) declared to be of tragic equivalence, though eligible to be redeemed by gestures of good faith and unexpected romantic developments. The beauty of the landscape and the violence of its human inhabitants are evidently supposed, in their respective extremities, to add up to something. But what? It’s not clear. And it’s not clear if the performances, sincerely and forcefully intended as they clearly are, shed much light on the issue.

Right from the opening sequence it’s clear we’re in a Scott Cooper movie, but again his unflinchingly gritty outlook is a perfect fit for this harsh and violent time. Reuniting with cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi, Cooper conjures brilliant imagery here, capturing the New Mexico landscape with a haunting beauty that underlines the themes of his story. Indeed, this is a tale of a prejudiced Army Captain who must find it in himself to work together with these “others” if they’re to succeed in their mission, and each successive hostile that attacks them is another reminder that we’re constantly surrounded by threats and problems, and the best way to ensure survival is to collaborate. Depressingly, it’s timely subject matter that still rings true over a century later.
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