Image: Christian Bale in Hostiles. [Source: IMDB]
The story of how barbaric the colonisation of America was to the natives is largely known. Hostiles seeks to once again bring that revisionist perspective to the Western genre once more as an Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Chief and his family through dangerous lands.
Director: Scott Cooper. Starring: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike 
The Western as a genre of cinema was once the figurehead of cinema, much how the Superhero movie dominates the listings these days. The Western-dominated the listings for decades. It has gone from strength to strength and now plays out vastly different to the romanticized epics of John Ford and Sergio Leone of the genre’s past, which Hostiles even plays some visual references to. In recent times these films seek to bring to light the brutality of the west and the violence that America as we know it was birthed. Gone are the white hat/black hat dynamics of storytelling which Hostiles plays into well, never putting a person as wholly good or wholly bad.
The cinematography of Hostiles reflects this attitude in its contrasting, dark colours conflicting with bright blue skies and golden fields. It’s both beauty and the brutality of the American nations coming of age. Behind the curtain of the beautiful cinematography which frankly is hard to go wrong within a western. It’s hard not to marvel at the vast open and untouched landscapes and we can only thank the Westerns of old for making long drawn out shots a staple of the Western genre.
Hostiles would not be much of a Western if it did not pay attention to the genre’s conventions. It even does a bit of modernising in its depiction of mental health in this time period, how harsh war and violence can be to the human mind and how it can affect people.
However, while Hostiles gets a lot right and certainly knows what it is doing, much of its serious, heavy subject matter is bogged down in uninteresting scenes. While the overarching story is a topical tale to be told in these times, its hard not to find the in-between of the beginning and end, dull and plodding. This is down to the lack of real tension in these scenes. There is little to think about or watch, as the film expects you to be satisfied that Christian Bale’s Army captain does not want to be doing this and both he and the chief have done terrible acts, it fails to realise any tension in these characters and tries to find excitement in bringing a convict into the mix but it’s too little too late.
The best parts of this in-between really are the performances. Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike are truly astonishing, Pike being the real stand out as her character holds more weight for the audience as we have seen the events that are plaguing her. The real problem is that they just have little material to work in the middle of the narrative.
Hostiles is yet another addition to the Western genre that brings to light the sheer brutality of the American West. It largely does nothing new there are some efforts made to modernise and add new dimensions to these stories. While they may be a step in the right direction, the film does not use these to its full advantage, resulting in a plodding middle, leaving much of the film lacking real motive and direction. This is a shame because the performances and cinematography are excellent.