Hostiles (Scott Cooper, 2017) USA

Reviewed by Carolina Ayala de Anselmo. Seen at the 2017 AFI Film Festival.

In his new movie, Hostiles, Scott Cooper twists the “good old Western” into a politically and beautifully correct masterpiece. The young director of Crazy Heart (2009) and Out of Furnace (2013), repeats successful partnership with Academy-award winning Christian Bale, starring alongside Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Wes Studi (The Last of the Mohicans), and Ben Foster (Lone Survivor). Containing all the ingredients of a successfull epic, Hostiles fails to disappoint. It takes a most needed new perspective of Native Americans in Western movies, after years of racist misconceptions. In this dramatic tale we follow hardcore American Army captain played by Bale accompany long time enemy, Yellow Hawk (Studi) and his family back to their homeland after years of imprisonment. Their road through the beautiful Mountain States contain redemption, love, adventure and forgiveness.

With beautiful cinematography that follows the characters from New Mexico to Montana, the movie can be read as an apology to the many years of abuse from the industry towards Natives. In long, establishing shots we not only see the characters in their full, but mainly we see a breath taking United States that was explored only by the Natives and those seeking to kill them. In heart warming twists, enemies becomes allies and fight for one cause, exploring the main theme of justice. Contrary to genre conventions of the good white man savin the day from the bad red faces, Hostiles, shows the hard life of the Native Americans, clearly condemning any mistreatment or misrepresentation.

The standouts were definitely the performances by the three main characters. With extremely touching scenes, Rosamund Pike breaks our hearts in the first scenes as a mother and wife who sees their entire family get slaughtered. With close ups and score matching the sad tone, it was hard to keep the tear in the eye. Christian Bale, on the other hand, excels both as the heart-less and oppressive soldier as wells as the good man he becomes. It is also very remarkable that the actor actually learnt Cheyenne for the movie, only showing the extent of his dedication. While the director, maintained his elegant yet fierceless style, with lots of killing and stunning imagery to reflect about the deeper meaning of the film.

“The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer,” reads the D.H. Lawrence saying that opens the film. In his new feature, Scott Cooper shows a American soul that is malleable and seeking redemption. With breathtaking cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi and score by Max Richter, this modern Western sets a new bar for the genre. It is a masterpiece with a very deep and important social message.

 

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