Living with our mistakes can be a difficult thing to do. We have all made at least one decision that we come to regret so much that we would do anything to go back in time and reverse that. For most, this has involved hurting someone. Perhaps this was intentional or even doing something you thought was good until something happens that made you think otherwise. We hate to think ourselves as imperfect, but humanity is all about the constant wrestle with our freewill and what comes with it. I hate to think that I've caused pain, but I cannot deny that I've done things that I wish could have been different.
The mistakes of the past can be dealt with…even if that doesn't erase them. The people you've hurt may not even forgive you. What's also hard to accept is that not everyone is willing to accept you. But when you accept that you don't need their "acceptance", you have every chance to make yourself a good person. This is why if your going to move forward with a better idea about how to help, then we can learn where we went wrong before. One such guy tries to redeem himself in the Old West in Hostiles.
In 1892 at Fort Berringer, New Mexico, Captain Joseph Blocker (played by Christian Bale) has returned after recapturing an Apache family that was attempting escape. He's told that for his last assignment before discharge that he has to relocate a Cheyenne war chief and his family up north to Montana. Blocker tries to decline the job, but is told that this is a direct order from the president and that if he doesn't, then he'll be court marshaled. So he agrees for the sake of his pension, but is also allowed to select his detail. He also meets the family he's transporting, war chief Yellow Hawk, his son Black Hawk, other son Moon Deer, Daughter-in-law Elk Woman, and grandson Little Bear.
While heading up, they encounter a woman Rosalie (played by Rosamund Pike) who has just experienced an Indian attack on her ranch where her husband and three children had been killed and scalped. After they bury the family, Rosaline joins the detail. Though Blocker is still reluctant to go up north due to his prejudices, he's impressed with Yellow Hawk's willingness to fight off other tribes that attack. The further north they get, the more Blocker thinks about what he's done and what it's meant to Native Americans.
Looking at the west with a revisionist viewpoint is nothing new (Dances with Wolves is probably the best example), so Hostiles better offer something new. While I can't say it does, it does try to make it's characters interesting. Story wise, I like the journey this solider, his detail, and the Indians are going for. New Mexico to Montana is a long ride. It surprises me that for a story that's trying to question "Whose the savage", it's focus is very uneven.
The script for Hostiles has a lot of ambition of juggling it's characters and the arcs they go through. Some like of Rosaline and Yellow Hawk are fascinating, but what troubles me is of the main character. He too goes through a change, but it feels buried, like it happened off screen and we didn't get a chance to see most of it. I think the movie was trying to write a lot of these characters similar to Game of Thrones where they could die at any minute. It doesn't help that much of the dialogue is very dry, which seems more real, but often had me losing focus and even daydreaming.
So you'd think that I didn't like Hostiles. Well… it's still a well-made movie. The cinematography is nice and captures the open plains and forests beautifully. The west is easy to make beautiful, so you need to have a strong script to go with it. I'd say that with a passable script, it's good, but not great. It was written and directed by Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace, Black Mass) whose known for trying to make the material of his stories as realistic as possible. The problem is that aside from being dry, they tend to be subjects that have been tackled before.
I'll give this three and a half Cheyenne souvenirs out of five. Hostiles was fine to watch on the big screen (we rarely get westerns, so their always going to be a nice relief). It even had some interesting stories, but it's a shame that not all of it works. If you like westerns, then you'll probably find this passable. It's overlong though and could have used a half hour cut to at least help some of the dry tone. Id say that if this is your cup of tea, take this ride into the sunset.