“Hostiles” (or “Hostis”), directed by Scott Cooper and based on a story manuscript by Donald E. Stewart, is a large independently produced ($39 million budget) western, that is strong on challenging the racism implicit in western pioneers in the 19th Century, but somehow got snubbed at the Oscar nominations. It has shown at Telluride. The drama (139 minutes) evolves slowly, but the few violent scenes are very intense, matching “The Unforgiven” and “Silverado”.
The film opens as a landowner in New Mexico has to defend his homestead against a sudden Cheyenne attack, and the family is largely massacred, although the wife (Rosamund Pike) and daughter survive. Just before the attack (almost the very first scene), the mother is home-schooling her daughters on what an “adverb” is — writers will cringe, or laugh.
Soon Army Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) is challenged – that is ordered – to escort the aging Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) all the way to Montana, where he is likely to die soon. The Captain objects because he considers Hawk responsible for the massacre, but president William Henry Harrison has ordered it.
Timothee Chalamet plays an Army private on the mission, and unfortunately he falls to an ambush. You want to see more of him.
The film has several conversations about the morality of settlers taking lands from native Americans. In the nativist family value system of the time, you “took care of your own”. At the end, Blocker is confronted by angry “sovereign” landowners as he returns Yellow Hawk. Blocker is willing to shoot a fleeing man and then follow him and break his neck.
The distribution company seems to be involved in litigating against telecoms for racial discrimination in programming, and seems to be quite active in the network neutrality debate.
3-1/2 stars out of 5 is my rating.
(Posted: Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 6 PM EST)
Open pit mine near Butte, MT which I visited (in snow) in early May, 1981.
|Director, writer:||Scott Cooper, Donald E. Stewart|
|When and how viewed:||Regal Potomac Yards, 2018/1/27, moderate audience, Saturday afternoon, seemed to like film|
|Companies:||Entertainment Studios, Freestyle Releasing, Waypoint, Grisbi|