Really one of the best recent Westerns of late, feeling almost like a novel in the accumulation of detail thanks in large part to Bale's acting. Only a few times did the message border on heavy handededness for me.
Christian Bale gives an incredibly intense performance in this great film from one of the greatest modern filmmakers Scott Cooper. This is a gripping road picture that has a lot to say about loss and grief and above all how we treat each other in the grand scheme of things. We are all shitty when it comes down to it but this film poses the question do we really have to be. At times it even has echoes of Peckinpah.
No so much a revisionist western as simply a plain ol' contemporary western (and I love a western). As w/ many westerns concerned w/ the relationship between the colonizer and indigenous peoples, it is also in no small part a war movie. Like many genre films it is interested in a man's code as an adaptable ethics. It would appear she's been working consistently, but I sure was happy seeing Q'orianka Kilcher again.
It has clunky moments and ponderous stretches, but surrendering to the episodic narrative is worthwhile. Even with the NCAI's important endorsement, this is less a film about Native Americans and cavalrymen, and more a story about how loss and grief can bring people together in unlikely and powerful ways -- even if they've every reason to hate each other. Takayanagi's photography, and Ritcher's score, are sublime.
It's noteworthy when a director chooses to be so doggedly old-fashioned in his pursuit of a specific aesthetic: languid pace, smoldering intensity, and gorgeous use of landscapes and faces (d.p. Takayanagi). HOSTILES is painfully sentimental, and this succeeds in elevating it from the bogus solemnity of BLACK MASS. The great Christian Bale oscillates between a maniac and good soldier when not reciting "yes, ma'ams".
Cooper goes all in yet again, this time attempting to craft a film with Malick's visual poetry and Cimino's explosive tension and violence. He never quite hits the right notes and there's the lingering feeling that something's off about the film: the big emotions never quite hit, the violence never shocks or sobers, and the narrative ultimately falls flat. Still, it's a journey worth taking.
I'm truly impressed of how Scott Cooper put his mark on this movie being on hostile ground. First of all he did a terrific job in writing the screenplay and then how clever he managed to bring around him all the right people to supporting him in making this story to work almost perfectly.
It's not easy at all to make a modern western to have the chemistry of the old ones.