The Hippo


May 31, 2020








Hostiles (R)

Hostiles (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Hostiles (R)

The old West was a place of lovely cinematography but horrible, brutal everything else in Hostiles.
The movie opens with Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) teaching her daughters about adverbs while rocking her infant son and watching her husband chop wood. Aw, you might think and that thought is about the length of time you have to enjoy this warm homey scene before a group of what we later learn are Comanche horse thieves show up. Despite Rosalie’s very wise suggestion that her husband should join her and the kids running for hills, he decides to stay and get killed horribly. Sadly for the kids, their running away isn’t all that effective either.
Cut to a scene of another woman screaming, this time a Native American woman who is holding her daughter and watching as a group of American soldiers led by U.S. Army Capt. Joe Blocker (Christian Bale) are capturing what appears to be her husband. He drags the family back to the fort for imprisonment where he has a discussion with a longtime colleague, Master Sgt. Thomas Metz (Roy Cochrane), who basically explains how the decades of soldiering and killing have left him in a state of deep depression. This is not, as it is clear by this point, going to be a happy movie.
Blocker, nearing retirement, is ordered to escort longtime prisoner Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family to his ancestral lands. The Chief is dying and his confinement has become, as the fort commander (Peter Mullan) explains, a cause célèbre back East. President Harrison has signed papers allowing Yellow Hawk and his family to return, an order Blocker does not want to follow as Yellow Hawk was his longtime battlefield adversary. But, pension, the commander reminds him, so Blocker suits up and sets out with a bunch of men whose blue uniforms can’t hide their Red Shirt status. 
As they hit the trail, Blocker is simmering with rage, chaining up Yellow Hawk as soon as they are out of sight of the fort. But then they come across Rosalie, cradling her dead baby next to the charred bed where she has tucked in the bodies of her two daughters inside the remains of her torched house. She’s broken, Metz remarks later, after they gently convince her to let them bury her family and change her blood-drenched clothes. 
Rosalie joins the group, which is headed through another fort, where Blocker is also asked to take charge of Sgt. Charles Wills (Ben Foster), a soldier charged with murder heading to another town for either a trial and an execution or just the execution, there’s so much grumbly grizzled discussion in this movie I couldn’t always figure out what everyone was saying. Wills, a former soldier under Blocker’s command, doesn’t think “following orders” is a good enough reason for Blocker to escort Yellow Hawk’s family home while dragging Wills to his death.
Along the journey, Blocker, who can speak Yellow Hawk’s language, gains respect for the chief and his grown son Black Hawk (Adam Beach), who even fight beside Blocker and his men when they encounter trouble. Rosalie meanwhile bonds with Elk Woman (Q’orianka Kilcher) and Living Woman (Tanaya Beatty), Black Hawk’s wife and sister respectively, and with Little Bear (Xavier Horsechief), Black Hawk and Elk Woman’s young son. She also clings to Blocker, whose experience with brutal loss on the battlefield seems to make him the most sympathetic to her plight.
A movie this super depressing but cinematically well-shot would seem to be a natural for award season and yet I didn’t hear much about it until last week. And this is sort of understandable — this movie is not without its flaws. Despite solid performances by Bale, Pike and Studi, there is something about this movie that never quite pulls together, never quite comes completely to life. The road trip structure loses some energy along the way, as if the weight of all the horribleness makes both the audience and the movie want to just sit in a stupor with a shot of whiskey instead of push forward. 
The movie ends with a wrap-up that feels too simple, with the neatness of the tying up of story points betraying the complexity of the movie before it.
So how to classify this? “Check out this total bummer of a movie with some strong performances and beautiful cinematography but some dodgy story points, that is pretty good but not great and will make you depressed about American history”? Do you think that blurb will make it to the DVD box? B
Rated R for strong violence (like, seriously strong realistic horrible violence) and language. Directed by Scott Cooper and written for the screen by Scott Cooper, Hostiles is two hours and 14 minutes long and distributed by Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures. 

®2020 Hippo Press. site by wedu