Cert: 15A; Opens January 5
Scott Cooper’s redemption story Hostiles means well and has much to recommend it. America was built on some awfulness and, arguably, the legacy of that is longer lasting because it was ignored.
The us and them, winnertakes-all policy still pervades, but it was honed on the Native Americans. Cinema has focused mainly on racism towards black people, however, with last year’s wonderful Wind River, and now Hostiles, that celluloid eye is turning towards the treatment of Native Americans.
In New Mexico in 1892, Captain Joe Blocker (Christian Bale) is unapologetically full of loathing for all Indians. He has both personal reasons to justify the hatred that led to atrocities, plus the Nuremberg Defence that it was his job.
Under threat of court martial, he escorts dying Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family from the cell they have been in for seven years to Montana. On the way they meet Mrs Quaid (Rosamund Pike) whose family’s destruction by Comanches opened the film. So there are atrocities on both sides, reasons for hatred.
Taken allegorically, the journey works, but it is just Blocker’s spiritual journey, all other characters are props and there are inherent difficulties with that. Bale is, of course, well able, Pike is excellent, it’s beautifully shot and scored and I enjoyed it — though it is slow and the dialogue mumbly in places. Inevitably brutal, it is strongest on the perils of dehumanisation.
Christian Bale leads the onslaught on the Native Americans of New Mexico in Hostiles