This Flick Friday we sit on the edge of full-blown Oscar season, crusaders. Sunday the Golden Globes will set our expectations and then we have to wait until Tuesday, January 23, for the nominees.
In the meantime, there’s a whole lot of considering to do. So today, I present one of the many hopefuls, a western with an eye on history and another on its modern audience—“Hostiles.”
From the start, one thing is clear, Rosamund Pike is the star of this movie. Yes, I know Christian Bale is listed first and he’s in the center of the poster to the left of this sentence, but Ms. Pike (and the arc of her character, Mrs. Quaid) is what makes this movie work.
I won’t tell you exactly how the movie opens, but I will tell you there were audible reactions in the theater. It is shocking, but its purpose is clear — to get us on the same page as Mrs. Quaid (Rosamund Pike) so that when Captain Joe Blocker (Christian Bale) happens upon her twenty minutes later, we know exactly where her head and heart are at.
The introduction of Captain Blocker is brutal and unapologetically so, and with him, the theme of “doing what is necessary,” is seen throughout the film. However, beyond the fact that he’s been in the military for a long time and plans to retire after he (begrudgingly…to say the least) delivers the ailing Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) to his Cheyenne tribal lands in Montana, we really don’t know much about Captain Blocker.
Which brings us back to Mrs. Quaid, who (again) is why this story works. Her addition to this travel party brings about the miraculous transformation of this man, who just days earlier made it abundantly clear that he has absolutely no respect or concern for the native people of the nation which he serves.
The metamorphoses would be absolutely jarring without her, but with her, it’s clear that what we have here is a case of extreme shame. While we don’t know the entirety of his story or how he became who he is, we know that her loss and suffering could have taken her down the same road, but it didn’t.
The specificity around what we see and what happens off screen is quite remarkable and although there are a few long-winded, silence-laden conversations that I could have lived without, the plot otherwise moves quite swiftly. I’m certain there are some out there that will point out that this movie is yet another story about Native Americans told from the perspective of a white man, and they are absolutely right. But I will say, small redemption though it may be, it does not pretend to be anything other than what it is.
I like it when movies leave me with questions (other than what the filmmakers were on when they wrote the script) and “Hostiles” will make you think and ponder, but in a constructive way. In the end “Hostiles” is a story well-told, with beautiful scenery, heart-wrenching performances, and, yes, more than a few questions.