There’s always room for a Western or two every year, and Hostiles is the latest prestige vehicle to re-examine the ways of the gun. Although it really doesn’t do much that’s original, or revisionary.
Christian Bale is his typically gruff and moody self as Captain Joe Blocker, an Indian hater, who’s ordered to escort an absolved tribal chief Yellow Bull from New Mexico to his ancestral home in Montana where the Apache native can die peacefully.
Along the way, Bale picks up a grieving widow (Rosamund Pike), whose family has been slaughtered by Comanche. The soldiers and the Apaches have to team together reluctantly to see off the Comanche threat and survive the rains, rivers and pillaging fur-trappers of the Wild West.
It’s an unforgiving film, given a boost by the arrival of another prisoner in the livewire form of Ben Foster. But it’s episodic and disjointed, long but somehow not long enough to fit in all its themes of what constitutes savagery, colonialism, morality, violence, femininity, God. “We’ll never get used to the Lord’s tough ways,” says Pike, dressed up in a pretty little native American number she’s borrowed from Elk Woman.
The Finale is disappointing, violent and muddling, a hurried ending that makes nonsense of the whole journey, really.