Scott Cooper’s new film, Hostiles, is perfectly poised as an awards season contender ripe with themes of racism, feminism, and moral ambiguity that are more relevant to the current social climate than anyone would expect from a Western.
Christian Bale stars as Captain Joe Blocker, a soldier hardened and haunted by years of slaughtering Native Americans who finds unexpected clarity in his final mission.
Set in 1892 near the end of the Indian Wars, Blocker is charged with escorting a dying Cheyenne Chief, Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) to sacred burial grounds despite his deep-rooted hatred for the natives he is now sworn to protect.
He and a few comrades, including Corp. Henry Woodesen (African-American actor Jonathan Majors), set out on a perilous journey while being tracked by a relentless rival tribe of Comanches.
After watching her husband and children get massacred by the same band of Comanches, Rosalee Quaid (Rosalund Pike) narrowly escapes with her life before being discovered by Blocker and his posse. Pike’s powerful, gut-wrenching performance throughout provides a platform for the film to explore the relationship between racism and feminism in a truly inspired way.
The wilds of New Mexico and Colorado provide a breathtaking backdrop for the grizzly tale that examines the space between blind hatred and personal morality, illuminating the notion of “white guilt” in a way we haven’t seen before.
It is impossible not to weigh Blocker’s crisis of conscience against today’s racially-charged social climate. This parallel forces viewers to consider whether cultural understanding and mutual respect are attainable when conflicts and differences seem insurmountable.
While Blocker’s brutal road to redemption is paved in bloodied bodies, there is a promise of absolution on the other side; proving the uneasy journey is one worth taking.
Hostiles premieres in New York City and Los Angeles on December 22. It opens nationwide on January 19.
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