Scott Cooper's Hostiles is one of my favorite films of the year so far. A contemplative western that doesn't shy away from the harshness of the Old West, nor the violence that has forever painted our nation's history blood red.
Christian Bale is Captain Joseph Blocker, an Army lifer tasked with transferring his lifelong adversary and notoriously murderous Comanche chief Yellow Hawk, played by the amazing Wes Studi, and his family from jail in Arizona to another jail in Montana where he'll face his final judgement at the gallows. Along the way they stumble across the newly widowed Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), whose family was slaughtered by Indians and who sees no need for the niceties afforded to Yellow Hawk. In this anger she is joined by Blocker, who has spent his life ridding the West of what he sees as the Indian scourge. But as they travel across the vastness of the American West, the old enemies save each other and begin to understand why they do what they do.
There are no angels here, and as the tagline says, we are all Hostiles.
I was blown away by the film when I saw it in January. It treats its subjects with the respect and complexity they deserve. At the the time, I had this to say:
Hostiles is a fascinating and complex exploration of the evolution of the overall morality of the old west. There are a few overt references to more modern sounding ethical opinions on the treatment of the "natives" sprinkled throughout the film, but to be honest, they kind of feel forced, even if they may have been period accurate. The real change comes through watching Bale's performance and ever-changing subtle perspective on his situation. Wes Studi isn't given much to do - after all, his character is on death's door - but he makes the most of his screen time even if it is largely filled with platitudes and metaphors.
The real hero of Hostiles, in spite of the fact that Bale acts his ass off, is Scott Cooper's script. The writing in this film is tremendous, and I'm sorry to say that I don't know how much of that stems from the original story by Donald E. Stewart. However, Stewart's story and Cooper's screenwriting make this film, which borders to overstaying its welcome at 135 minutes, well worth the journey. Hostiles was one of the most satisfying films of last year, it makes me wish all movies were written with such care. Scott Cooper has proven himself to be a force to be reckoned with after Crazy Heart and this film, I cannot wait to see what else he has up his sleeve.
Now that I've been given the opportunity to rewatch the film I feel largely the same, Hostiles is a wonderful film.
Lionsgate's Blu-ray release of Hostiles is superb. The film looks and sounds great from a 35mm source. The image is rich and deep, plenty of outdoor daylight present the viewer with a vivid palette and fine detail for days. The world of Hostiles has a very lived-in feel and this disc represents that very well. No complaints on the A/V front.
There is only one extra on the Hostiles Blu-ray release, but it's more generous than the usual EPK fluff that accompanies most contemporary releases. Here we get an hour long documentary that covers numerous aspects of the film from many different perspectives. Cooper is given the vast bulk of the screen time to explain his history with the project and the ideas that spawned the film. We also get to hear from the different performers and crew members who give their own views of the project.
A lot of importance is given to authenticity, with multiple experts and consultants on hand to ensure that the story, language, and appearance of Yellow Hawk and the other Native Americans is as accurate as it can be. It really pays off in the film, as these are layered characters who appear to have lived these lives and understand the circumstances that have led them to their current fates.
I love Hostiles, and this is a really solid Blu-ray relase for a great film.