Saturday, September 30, 2017

TIFF 17 Film Review - Hostiles

Soon to be retiring Army Captain Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) has one last great assignment to complete by order of the President. Escort Cheyenne leader Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) who has been in prison for years back to his homeland in Montana to die.  The party sets out from the New Mexico fort coming across coming across frontier woman Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) whose family was wiped out by Comanche raiders. She joins the party uncomfortable with the native members as first considering her recent experience. As they make their way across the territory the same Comanches attack again with grave consequences for two of the military party. The troop limps into Fort Collins, Colorado picking up a condemned criminal Philip Wills (Ben Foster).

The subject matter of the film is uncomfortable jarring and psychologically challenging. Rosalie is bearly functioning when Blocker finds her then her next encounter is with people looking like those that wiped out her family. Blocker and Yellow Hawk are sworn enemies but they are forced to team up along the route to fight common enemies. Wills and Blocker served together both viciously killing natives but one is leading a mission sanctioned by the President wile the other is shackled in chains on his way to the gallows.

Director Scott Cooper's film is set in 1892 towards the end of the Indian wars. The frontier setting means that no one that you don't know well is to be trusted. Your level of authority as a lawman or commissioned solider is tenuous at best and revoked if facing a larger party or out gunned. The pace is cautious as everyone has to be who dwells in the western territories.

Christian Bale spans the range of emotion as Captain Blocker. He has no love loss for the natives although he speaks their language. Having seen many past colleagues die at their hand he tried to refuse the assignment until his pension was threatened. He's highly educated yet a blunt instrument of death when those skills are required. Rosamund Pike is effective as Rosalie Quaid. She's a mess totally traumatized by the death of her family but slowly builds back up to ultimately be a key contributor in a vital confrontation later on in the film. Rory Coltrane turns in a philosopher warrior performance as Metz. He's been fighting alongside Blocker for many years having started out on the other side with the Grays. He's killed his share of men but realizes that his people have wronged those that originally inhabited this land.

Hostiles is a beautiful looking film where cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi's lens captures the colours, rough edges and vast spaces of the land. Christian Bale leads a sharp cast that's short on words but ready in an instant to make a deadly choice.  It's a story where friends become enemies, those that look like you can be your biggest threat while those that do not can save your life.

*** 1/2 Out of 4

Hostiles | Scott Cooper | USA | 2017 | 127 Minutes.

Tags: Western, Frontier, Burial Lands, New Mexico, Scalped, Colorado, Montana, Prisoner.

No comments:

Post a Comment