Eppler: "Hostiles" a brutal, conflicted Western

Eppler: "Hostiles" a brutal, conflicted Western

There's a reason that the Western is the definitive American film genre. These movies reveal truths about who we've been and also who we are through our checkered history. "Hostiles" is a deeply conflicted Western that wants to be true to that history, but also on the right side of it. 

Set in 1892, Christian Bale is Captain Blocker, an Army man who's spent a career wiping out natives on the frontier. So his final assignment before he can retire is particularly distasteful - taking a captive Cheyenne Chief (Wes Study) and his family back to their homeland before he dies of cancer.

And these men have history.

On the trip, the group comes upon Rosamund Pike ("Gone Girl"), whose family was wiped out by a brutal pack of Cherokee - which proves to be a common enemy for this group that has to learn to work together to survive.

Bale and Pike are especially good - given the most meat to chew on. But their Cheyenne traveling companions aren't given nearly as much characterization - treated more like instruments to help the White characters learn their lessons about acceptance, which is problematic. But the thoughtful script by Director Scott Cooper is still an ambitious one - wanting to pay homage to old Western movies but with the necessary nuance of brutality on both sides. 

It's also stunningly photographed with locations in Santa Fe and Angel Fire providing a beautiful backdrop to the often brutally violent happenings. It's a strong Western worth discussing and debating. Note to Hollywood: More like this, please. 

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