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Hostiles (2017)

Directed by Scott Cooper

Based on the manuscript by Donald E. Stewart

Screenplay by Scott Cooper

Starring: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Jonathan Majors, Wes Studi, Ben Foster

An Army captain at the end of his career is ordered to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory.

This movie is based on a story written by the late Donald E. Stewart (The Hunt for Red October). Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace) wrote the screenplay and directed the film. The stars of the film include Christian Bale (The Big Short), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Jonathan Majors (Captive State), Wes Studi (The Last of the Mohicans), and Ben Foster (Hell or High Water).

On the surface this film is a western with all of the required elements to fit the genre. Beneath the surface this is a deep emotional drama. This script is filled with characters who, for the most part, lack any sense of innocence. Each person seems to carry personal baggage that is wonderfully communicated. This film does a nice job of giving just enough information to the audience. Another strength of the story is the constantly shifting dynamics between characters.

The dialogue is wonderfully written, and the action built into the story never feels gratuitous. Some people might not care for the lack of information given since the film works primarily on an emotional level. The story is also a slow burn, and might not move as fast as some viewers would want. I would argue that it’s been a long time since there was a western this well-written.

The cast of the film puts on quite a show in this one. Christian Bale does a wonderful job with the deeply emotional and often unspoken darkness in his role. He also manages to balance that darkness with a sense of duty that is essential to the film. Rosamund Pike also does great work with her part in this one. Her performance brings out an incredibly deep sense of sadness. Jonathan Majors also provides an excellent performance in this one. His chemistry with Bale is a great aspect of the film. Wes Studi also delivers with a more subdued performance that really pays off when it counts. Ben Foster also adds a nice performance of his own. The entire cast did great work with a very nicely written script.

This movie looks incredible. Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Spotlight) did excellent work bringing out the intimacy of the relationships and the vast expanse of the great plains. The action is wonderfully choreographed, allowing the brutality at the center of the story to come through. Max Richter (Shutter Island) also made a nice contribution with the score he composed for this film.

This might be one of the best westerns produced in a long time. If you’re a fan of the genre this a must-see movie. I would also suggest this one to fans of Bale and any of the other cast members. This is a gritty film that lives in a dark world with graphic violence so it might not be for everyone. I think that it’s a shame that the Oscar nominations didn’t include a couple for this one. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: R

Running Time: 134 Minutes


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