Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - CINEMA - AINE O’CON­NOR

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

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