A Wonderfully Original Idea, Wasted
Hostiles (2017): In 1892, a legendary Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory.
These Raw Thoughts come to you from Wooden Cask Brewery in Newport, KY, immediately after seeing the film.
GAH. There is a fantastic movie in here. Hostiles may be one of the most disappointing films I saw in all of 2017 because you can see the potential for not just a great story, but one of the best films of the entire year. Buuuuuuuut the movie makes some unforgivable decisions throughout its 134 minute runtime. These decisions, combined with some poor dialogue and the odd casting of Rosamund Pike, hold this back from what could have been.
And ohhhhhhhh what could have been. To start, this movie is beautiful to look at. Most Westerns are, but this film manages to have some absolutely gorgeous cinematography even by their standards, (thanks to Masanobu Takayanagi….gotta remember his name) while not being romantic in any way. And that's my favorite part! So many Westerns make their setting romantic with a bunch of charisma within, but “romance” and “charisma” are the last two words I'd use to describe Hostiles. This is a nitty gritty Western, filled with death, destruction, and despair. It features men that straight-up hate each other, and it does not shield you, the viewer, from the most graphic examples of this hatred. It's a surprising breath of fresh air in this age-old genre. I love it!
And, of course there's Christian Bale, who puts in another fantastic performance. He's quiet and reserved, which is how most of this movie is, but when he enters a room he just has this commanding presence about him. I don't know how Christian Bale manages to keep doing it after all of these years, but he was completely immersed into his role once again. There were also great performances from Ben Foster, Timothée Chalamet, Jesse Plemons, the great Wes Studi, and Rory Cochrane. The men of this movie were outstanding. (Ugh)
Unfortunately, though, this is where the movie also shows its weaknesses. Hostiles is filled with men, and its lone woman is completely miscast. I love Rosamund Pike. Her performance in Gone Girl was one of my top performances of 2014. But here she feels shoe-horned in and grossly out-of-place. Her character has to deliver some poor dialogue too, which doesn't help, but MAN. She is just…..not good. Rosamund Pike is just too British for this gritty American Western role, especially when cast alongside Christian Bale. It also doesn't help that she's the ONLY woman in this movie that's given anything of note to do, and OF COURSE she has to have a forced romance with Bale. Why??? “Hey, my husband and my entire family just died like a week ago, perfect time for me to find a new lover!” Right? GAH. This was a TERRIBLE decision from director/writer Scott Cooper. In addition, this film’s dialogue was very polarizing. One scene, it was fantastic, the next it was cringe-worthy. This script was coined by both Scott Cooper and Donald Stewart, so I wouldn't be surprised if one of these writers were to blame. But the film felt the need to “moviesplain” far too much. There's a classic rule of screenwriting that says “Show, don't tell.” that Hostiles broke on more than one occasion. And overtell it did.
In conclusion….. The core of this movie is fantastic. When Christian Bale is on screen trying to redeem himself and his preconceived biases against Native Americans, this film is incredible. But it only takes something like an hour to tell this story. The rest of this movie is spent wasting away on bad subplots and terrible dialogue. I mean, at one point we're given a scene where Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike are eating dinner with another couple in a fancy room with a fancy meal in the middle of a nitty gritty Western. Why??? Why is this scene in this movie at all? It was so useless that I decided that my need to go to the bathroom triumphed over what was happening on screen, so I took what is maybe my first bathroom break EVER at the cinemas during this useless sequence. But Christian Bale soul-searching in a Western with fantastic cinematography is SO GOOD! I just wish the other aspects of the film were up-to-par. Unfortunately, though, you should avoid this one and just go and watch your favorite Western again. Ohhhhh what could have been….
My Number: 5/10
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