After accepting one last assignment, to bring a chief to his land in Montana, a military Captain and his platoon save a woman and each other while they go through the mountains and vistas. The journey is more complicated and difficult than expected and brings each of them much more than they thought.
Directed and written for the screen by Scott Cooper from a manuscript by Donald E Stewart, Hostiles is a film that delves into its characters by putting them in situations most people wouldn’t survive and by pairing them against their antithesis, letting the flow of things show they true colors and help them grow as human beings. The story takes these characters and situations and makes them relatable while keeping them appropriate for their time period. The characters are written in a manner that makes them flawed, but strong humans. The leads, and some of the supporting characters, get enough time to be fully fleshed out while not going overboard and taking all mystery away. The way the film develops, these characters find solace in each other and their beliefs, done in a way that feels organic and natural.
The cast here is understated in most scenes and gives absolutely stunning performances. Rosamund Pike as the grieving mother saved by the travelling military is perfection. She gives her character the right depth, the right desperation, and then the right evolution in her emotional state. She doesn’t have the most lines, but she is the one that connects the best with the audience in how she portrays this bereaved woman with a touch of despair and hope at the same time. The two eventually balance out and shift, something that is mostly seen on Pike’s face and not necessarily in her lines. Her performance is nuanced and strong. Working with her, in what is the lead part, is Christian Bale as Capt. Joseph J. Blocker. Bale gives his usually strong performance, where he offers layers of emotions and, in this case, un-shown emotions. His character is more complex than most of the other military men shown and he does a lot of talking, but most of what is going on with him is non-verbal and Bale does this with talent and aplomb. Also giving a strong performance is Rory Cochran who has the most conflicted character of the group and makes the most of his supportive character’s screen time. His performance shines in a group of strong performances. Another one that is strong and almost silent, is the performance by Wes Studi as the man being brought home for the end of his days. His screen presence permeates his scenes and even some where he is not involved. His performance grabs the viewer and doesn’t let go until he is ready to let go, he is a man of few words, but his words have weight in how they are written and how they are delivered.
These performances are given in an environment that is mostly outside and in beautiful vistas. These are shot in delicate beauty by cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi who knows how to properly frame a shot may it be two characters talking, a character reflecting in nature, or just the general area where all these people are evolving. His work here gives some of the scenery the quality of an old painting, making every location look perfect. Working with the images is the music by Max Richter. This score on this film is mostly subtle and perfectly paired with the images and emotions. It’s one of those scores that is calm and there exactly at the right moments with the right underlining of emotions. The film gains greatly from this score and how it’s applied.
Hostiles is a carefully crafted drama that does have a long runtime, but it does not feel long. The characters are complex and flawed, yet characters that are easy to watch evolve and make it their destination. The film has strong, nuanced performances, beautiful images, and a perfectly match score. It has a western-ish feeling but is of the deeper kind with a story that leads to self-discovery for the characters and growth which makes them human and characters one would want to watch, whether they start good or bad or somewhere in the middle. Hostiles is one of those film worth seeing on the big screen for its imagery and its nuances.