If Bale is the star, the rest of the cast is the sky holding him in place
When Hostiles is stripped back, the skeleton of a classic style western is left with some crucial updates making it more than relevant to a modern day audience. The top layers however, run beautifully rich in subtle themes and exciting shootouts, with quality dripping through from every element of the production.
Set to retire imminently, Captain Blocker (Christian Bale) is tasked with one final journey taking Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), a known killer and 20-years prisoner, to Montana to die peacefully. In spite of it being much against his beliefs, Blocker agrees to take the chief on the journey north. However a rogue group of native Americans and other New Mexico adversaries are ready to take out the Captain and all of those around him.
Christian Bale is the star as his character Joeseph J. Blocker takes a huge personal journey during the expansive trek north. Not for a long time has Bale showed just how brilliant his emotional range is, inside of just one role. And this carries Hostiles through some of the weaker moments tending to come in periods of one to one dialogue.
It is these unengaging moments that do let Hostiles down, with only Bale’s increasingly diverse emotions to cling on to. There are powerful speeches within the runtime, but often they needed finer tuning before they were printed on the final script sheets. Yet this should not take anything away from the outstanding performances put out by most of the cast. If Bale is the star, the rest of the cast is the sky holding him in place.
There is a deeply thematic picture laying beneath the violence that litters the screen with blood, but the understanding comes with a Western that it could be a gruesome outing. There’s enough substance behind the gore to make Hostiles a fascinating watch, and one that is accessible to all. Western fan or not.