Movies

‘Hostiles’ review: weak narrative

A still from the movie.

A still from the movie.  

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Excellent visuals and performance cannot carry this earnest plod along

It is always a pleasure watching the changeful Christian Bale and in Hostiles he does not disappoint as cavalry officer Captain Joseph J. Blocker who is “no angel” where his treatment of Native Americans is concerned. It is 1892, in Fort Berringer, New Mexico, and Blocker is ordered by his commanding officer to escort Yellow Hawk, an Indian chief dying of cancer and his family to tribal lands in Montana. You know there is going to be a gradual melting of Blocker’s heart notwithstanding DH Lawrence’s quote (“The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted”) in the beginning of the film.

There is mention of the awful things Yellow Hawk and Blocker have done and the movie opens with the slaughter of Wesley Quaid and his three children by Comanche raiders. Quaid’s wife, Rosalie survives and is found by Blocker’s party. The party meet and endure all sorts of hardship from the weather to the Comanche. There is a brief stop at Colorado to pick up a sergeant to be court-marshalled and hanged.

The scenery is beautiful as the dusty browns give way to verdant greens, the soldier finally succumbing to PTSD after long years in the frontier is poignant and the horses look graceful as they pick their way carefully through turbulent rivers and unforgiving mountains, but whenever the film tries to explore the right and wrong of the events, it falters.

The women—Rosalie, Moon Deer and Elk Woman don’t do much apart from braid each other’s hair, wash dishes and get kidnapped. Sigh. Rosamund Pike as Rosalie, flashes her tremulous eyes and lips, and her character arc ends with her confidently handling a rifle—obviously nobody believes in breaking the endless circle of violence.

This movie could have been a revisionist western or rollicking ride. Unfortunately it is neither.

Director: Scott Cooper

Cast: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Ben Foster

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 2:33:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/hostiles-review/article22777131.ece

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