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Movie Review: “Hostiles”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 1/26/2018

Theatrical Release: 1/26/2018

Synopsis

The year is 1892, and the United States Army is at war with various Native American tribes in the west. Captain Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) has become a legendary captain in the United States Army, and he is now eyeing retirement. His superiors, however, have one last mission for him. A prisoner, Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), is very sick, and the United States Army has made a deal that would allow him to be released so that he can spend the rest of his life with his tribe. Captain Blocker’s mission is to escort the dying Chief to his tribe.

Captain Blocker does not exactly hide his contempt for the mission, as he does not exactly like Chief Yellow Hawk. He may be a sick old man now, but he and his tribe have been responsible for the horrific deaths of many Americans. Captain Blocker’s pride tells him to let the old man rot in his cage, and if not that, Blocker would like to kill the man himself. However, Captain Blocker’s duty compels him to complete the mission that he has been given. With members of the United States Army wanting the Chief dead, and Native Americans wanting to kill Captain Blocker and his crew, Captain Blocker will have many enemies along his journey. With imminent danger around every corner, his last mission will certainly not be an easy one.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Christian Bale & Rosamund Pike (+8pts)

Slow (-4pts)

Pride vs. Duty (+6pts)

Too Many Characters (-2pts)

Intensity (+6pts)

Capt. Blocker vs. Chief Yellow Hawk (-2pts)

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Pro: Christian Bale & Rosamund Pike (+8pts)

Christian Bale is an incredibly talented actor who transforms into his roles, and he consistently delivers exceptional dramatic performances. Hostiles was no exception, and his character Captain Blocker had quite the internal struggle. He was forced to take a hard look at what he had done through his time in the Army, and he was forced to humanize a group of people he has seen as enemies for his entire career. It made him question the morality of his actions, and it made him wonder what it was all for. It was an interesting character story, and Christian Bale knocked the role out of the park.

Rosamund Pike’s character was not exactly a part of the main story. After a tragic attack at the hands of a Native American tribe, she crossed paths with Captain Blocker and his crew. Her character had a very tragic story. It was a story of loss, vengeance, empowerment, and it was a compelling character to see Rosamund Pike bring to the screen.

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Con: Slow (-4pts)

I liked the movie, but I felt like the filmmakers had a script that could have been a lean one hour and forty minute movie, but they stretched it out to two hours and fifteen minutes. There were just a lot of pretty slow scenes. The characters were compelling due to what they were dealing with, but as much as I liked the characters and their story, I still thought the movie felt unnecessarily drawn out and slow.

I do not think this issue significantly hurt the movie, but it was definitely my biggest issue with it. The filmmakers clearly wanted to dwell on the actors and their performances, to showcase them as much as possible. That was a good decision, but the filmmakers seemed to go a little overboard with it. They easily had room to trim this movie down by about 30 minutes, and they could have done so while still showcasing the performances and the character stories. By not doing this, the filmmakers delivered an interesting story with a bunch of slow sections.

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Pro: Pride & Duty (+6pts)

I liked the internal conflict that the main character of this story was forced to struggle with. His pride told him to do one thing, but his duty required him to do the opposite. When seeing it typed out like this, it may be easy to say that the character should do his duty. However, for Captain Blocker, that meant going against something he had been fighting and risking his life for, for many years. The character had to ignore his instincts, and he had to ignore everything he knew about the man he had been tasked with escorting.

I enjoyed this internal conflict, and I enjoyed Christian Bale’s portrayal of it. This was a compelling character story, because the character had clearly never been more challenged by his duty than he was during the events of the movie. The filmmakers then took this a step further by challenging what the character believed was right and wrong, and whether or not his actions throughout his career were morally justified. As great as Christian Bale’s performance was, the filmmakers gave him some very compelling material to work with.

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Con: Too Many Characters (-2pts)

Unfortunately, I that this movie felt cluttered in terms of side characters. There were just a lot of them, and it was sometimes hard to keep track of them and their motivations. The story threw a complex issue at the protagonist, and it threw the same issue at some of the side characters as well. On one hand, I liked seeing the different perspectives of the same issue, and I enjoyed seeing the types of characters that Captain Blocker’s crew encountered on their journey through the west. On the other hand, I thought there were too many characters to keep track of, and they ended up distracting from the main character's story.

It was not that any specific character did not work for me. Instead, there were just too many of them. Reducing the number of side characters would have done two things to help this movie. It would have made me care more about the characters that were in the movie, and it would have given more screen time to flesh out the primary characters even more. Fortunately, this was sort of me nitpicking, as I definitely struggled to come up with another issue that I had with the movie.

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Pro: Intensity (+6pts)

The movie may have been a slow burn, but it was certainly intense. The feud between the two sides of this war was just really effective at ramping up the film’s intensity. The Native Americans justifiably hated the United States Army for taking their land by force and for killing so members of their tribes along the way. Then there were the members of the United States Army, who hated the Native Americans for the barbaric way in which they killed countless soldiers and innocent people.

Both sides did terrible things, and both sides had their reasons hating the other. The filmmakers did a great job of making this feud feel chaotic, as it always felt like there was more danger right around the corner. It was also added more intensity by making it unclear what Captain Blocker would do in the end. Would he protect the prisoner, or would his hatred get the better of him? This was a story filled with danger, passion, and intensity, and I thought the filmmakers did a really good job of bringing these things to the screen. They built the intensity throughout the movie, and it all came to a head in a very intense climax. The movie admittedly had its slower sections, but the intensity was definitely trending upward the entire time.

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Con: Capt. Blocker vs. Chief Yellow Hawk (-2pts)

The filmmakers could have done a better job at developing the relationship between Captain Blocker and Chief Yellow Hawk. The characters were on opposite sides of the war, but they had their similarities. They hated each other, but they understood each other, even though neither character would ever admit it. This was a relationship that could have been fascinating to see developed further. They were essentially two sides of the same coin, and their relationship could have added a lot of context to how the audience viewed both sides of the war. The filmmakers touched on the differences and similarities between these two characters, but it would have been a far more compelling movie if this relationship got more focus.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (87pts)

Hostiles was far from a fast-paced, or action packed western, but it had talented lead actors, compelling character stories, and it had plenty of slow-building intensity. It was a story about pride versus duty, it was a story about revenge and empowerment, and it was a story that forced its characters to take a hard look at who they were as well as what they had done. Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike knocked their respective roles out of the park.

The movie was definitely a slow burn, as it definitely had its slower sections, but the characters’ compelling stories got me through it. The movie felt cluttered with side characters, to the point where I had trouble caring about and understanding who they were, but the movie’s intensity kept building nonetheless. This was a movie about the feud between Native Americans and the United States Army that did not try to glorify either side, and it actually seemed to be showing the darkest parts of both groups, although I would have liked to see the filmmakers dive deeper into the relationship between the primary characters of those groups. I think the filmmakers could have trimmed it down by about twenty or thirty minutes, and doing so would have made for a more refined story, but I still enjoyed this movie quite a bit.

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