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Sugar House Journal

Dan's Review: a tale of redemption in "Hostiles"

Jan 18, 2018 18h23 ● By Dan Metcalf

Wes Studi and Christian Bale in Hostiles - © 2017 Elevation Pictures.

Hostiles (Elevation Pictures)

Rated R for strong violence, and language.

Starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Jesse Plemons, Adam Beach, Rory Cochrane, Ben Foster, Q’orianka Kilcher, Jonathan Majors, Timothée Chalamet, Peter Mullan, Robyn Malcolm, Paul Anderson, Stephen Lang, Scott Wilson, Bill Camp, John Benjamin Hickey, Scott Shepherd, Ryan Bingham.

Written by Scott Cooper and Donald E. Stewart.

Directed by Scott Cooper.



Making peace with your enemies is a tough stretch for most people. When you’ve killed their family members and they’ve killed your comrades, it can be even tougher. Such is the setting for Hostiles, a dark, western drama set in the American Frontier at the end of the 19th Century.

Christian Bale stars as Capt. Joe Blocker, a frontier cavalry soldier assigned to keep the local Apache tribe under control. Blocker is assigned to escort dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family (Adam Beach, Q’oianka Kilcher, Tanaya Beatty and Xavier Horsechief) from Arizona to their native lands in Montana, by order of the president of the United States. Blocker is enraged by the assignment, since he has lost so many men to Yellow Hawk’s attacks in the past. Yellow Hawk isn’t too pleased, either, especially since Blocker keeps the natives in chains during the first part of the journey. Blocker’s men include Sgt. Metz (Rory Cochrane), Henry Woodsen (Jonathan Majors), Lt. Kidder (Jesse Plemmons) and Private DeJardin (Timothee’ Chalamet). Shortly into the journey, Blocker’s party discovers Rosalie (Rosamund Pike), a distraught survivor of an attack by a native war party that killed her husband and children. Rosalie joins Blocker on the Journey, and must overcome her fear of Yellow Hawk along the way. The group soon encounters the same brutal tribe that wiped out Rosalie’s family, suffering great losses in the ensuing battle. The group also picks up a few more soldiers and Sgt. Willis (Ben Foster) an army war criminal sentenced to death. Along the way, Blocker and Yellow Hawk slowly begin to trust one another in the face of may perils they encounter, including marauding trappers and more native attacks. By the time they reach Montana, Blocker must face one more challenge if he is to complete his assignment, but he must first overcome the hatred of his past.

Hostiles is a very good, but very brutal film about reconciliation and forgiveness, with outstanding performances from Bale and Studi. The cinematography is beautiful and the action is visceral (very bloody at times), which covers for a story that tends to wander, especially in the middle act. An abrupt ending also renders the entire journey something short of pointless.

I’m not entirely sure if the message of forgiveness in Hostiles will come across as authentic, since the main rivals aren’t given much choice between death and survival in the face of extreme circumstances. Whatever it takes, I suppose. 

Hostiles Trailer