I think it was in October I ordered a box of Japanese potato chips. Thinking it would be an interesting Christmas gift to buy myself. However, I didn’t realize it would take four months to get to me. They finally managed to arrive a few days ago, so now I’m eating a mystery bag of mystery flavored chips while trying to think of some words to put together to describe Hostiles. So far the best word I have is “bleak”.
I believe the only westerns I’ve reviewed for the site were Bone Tomahawk and The Hateful Eight. Which is a shame, seeing as I absolutely love the genre. I was on a bit of a western kick not long again after watching the great Netflix series Godless. Thanks to that show it finally got me to watch The Homesman, a movie I have been putting off seeing. It seemed slow, and usually when I watch a movie I watch it at night. Watching a slow western at night usually means I fall asleep. So I just kept putting it off. Then I saw it was on Netflix to steam so why not. I thought it was great, depressing as all hell but still great. Something that film shares in common with Hostiles.
From everything I heard about Hostiles, it’s how bleak and depressing it is. And let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint in that department. Slightly in the bleakness levels as Brimstone a film I was eagerly waiting to see last year, but at least Hostiles had a happier ending.
Hostiles is a slow paced western with bursts of violence. And usually that’s how I like my westerns or at least that’s how I think westerns should be. I might be the only one to really like Appaloosa when that came out. As much as I liked that film, it’s as slow as a pig in molasses. I’m pretty sure that’s a saying.
My theater going experience wasn’t the best. I went when it was pouring outside. Usually that’s the perfect time to go. But that also means I’m now wet while seeing this almost two and half hour movie. Another issue I had was everyone in my showing must have either been sick or was in the process of getting over being sick because a lot of the movie’s more quiet moments were interrupted by an orchestra of hacking and throat clearing. But I can’t judge them too harshly seeing as I was one of those people, I myself also getting over a cold.
And I know I bragged about never getting up to pee during a movie in a previous review, but not only 20 minutes in did I have to go pee like a race horse. I hate being that asshole that has to keep saying sorry as he shuffles past everyone to get by, trying not to step on any feet while stumbling around in the dark. But that was me, with my wet leather jacket I just bought, probably slapping people in the face as I scooted by.
The curse of grabbing a seat in the middle. My usual spot was taken, the middle lane handicap spot. I started using that seat since seeing… I want to say since seeing Baby Driver, but I can’t remember. But my seat was taken this time by actual handicap people. Those bastards!
I think I might have been the youngest person in the theater. Good thing I don’t have gerontophobia or I would have been screwed.
Anyway, I’ve wasted enough page space, let’s get down to the review.
Like I mentioned before, this is a very slow paced film and to make things worse, everyone has this low whisper talk. Films like this I don’t enjoy seeing at the theater. A movie like Hostiles or say The Homesman are perfect films to watch at the luxury of your own home, sipping on some alcoholic drink. As soon as the film was over I got myself a white Russian. Did you know you can buy a jug of already made white Russian? I was just going to make my own but with the added cost of the vodka and the Kahlua, it would be pretty expensive. Thankfully the already made white Russian was only like $10. And it’s a giant ass jug too. And! When I’m done with it, I can finally start that jug band I’ve been thinking about forming! Big Daddy Smooth Cakes & the Love Scouts. Email me for more sign up info. Only serious jug players should apply.
Sorry, I have to take a break, these chips must be squid flavored because my cat won’t leave me alone.
(The next day)
Okay, so where was I again? This time, no Japanese snacks, so hopefully my cat will leave me alone long enough to write this review.
One thing I think this film managed to do was stick with me, or at least the state it left me in, a kind of depressing funk.
The film opens with Indians slaughtering a family, even shooting a baby in the face. The film doesn’t get much sunnier after that. It did a great job of setting the mood for the rest of the film.
Rosamund Pike plays the only survivor from said slaughter. Their family lives out in the middle of nowhere, and the only thing they have to protect them is an old rifle. Talk about asking for trouble.
Christian Bale plays Capt. Joseph J. Blocker, boy does he hate Indians.
His job consists of rounding up Indians and tossing them in a military fort’s prison. In this prison is Chief Yellow Hawk, he’s sick and the President wants some good press, releasing him and taking him back to his peoples land. A task that Bale’s character finds insulting, seeing as this man slaughtered several of his friends years ago at the battle of wounded knee. And now he has to escort this guy and his family back home. Of course Bale doesn’t have much of a choice seeing as if he refuses, they’ll hold his pension checks. The only thing an old soldier has to look forward to anymore.
With a few new soldiers and Bale’s own personal more seasoned soldiers, they set off to I’m guessing a reservation several territories away. Along the way they run into Rosamund Pike’s character Rosalie Quaid. She managed to slip past the marauder Indians. She’s been staying in their now burnt home with her dead children, still cradling that dead baby. Her husband however still gets to sleep face first in the dirt. That’s what he gets for making them live out in the middle of nowhere in Indian territory.
Bale and his men can’t bear to leave her this way, so they help bury her children and take her with them on their journey. Along the way, they are instantly attacked by the same Indians that attacked Rosalie’s homestead, murdering her family.
Instantly several of Bale’s men or either kill or wounded. Which in these times is like being as good as dead. Just getting shot in the arm most likely spells your death.
The men take a short detour and head for a fort where they can drop off their wounded and Rosalie. But since they’re there, they might as well help transport a fellow soldier who butchered a family. Enter Ben Foster. Everyone seems to know Bale’s character, as these two have a history. They fought together in wounded knee. Ben Foster reminds Bale’s character that they really aren’t that different. They’ve both done horrific things.
Not wanting to wait a few days for the train to come, Rosalie decides to continue the journey with Bale and his men.
Since Ben Foster and Bale’s character have a history, he’s hoping maybe Bale will go easy on him and set him free. When it looks like that isn’t happening, Ben Foster’s character attacks Jesse Plemons’ character and runs off. I’m not sure on his fate. He was gravely wounded, but I have no clue if he made it or not. Since I kind of love Jesse Plemons, I hope he made it. The last few things I’ve seen him pop up in he’s died horribly. Well, he didn’t die in The Post at least.
Oh, if you’re asking what happened to the Indians, the answer is… I’m not sure. I picked a slow moment to get up to pee and when I came back they run across the Indians already dead, hanging from a tree. So I have no idea if I missed something or if it’s just another moment where we aren’t shown what happens. The same thing happens when Bale’s number two guy, who has been dealing with depression, sick of everything they’ve done in the past, runs off to catch Ben Foster’s character when he escapes. They managed to catch up them and we see Ben Foster is dead, so is Bale’s number two, who apparently killed himself.
They continue to their destination but Chief Yellow Hawk isn’t going to make the rest of the journey. When he dies, they perform their ceremony, leaving the body on sticks, above the ground. What’s funny is there’s a scene in The Homesman where Tommy Lee Jones runs across one of these burial sites and grabs one of the furs they were laid to rest with. Maybe they’re the same dead Indian? At least it is in my head cannon.
As they finish the ceremony, that’s when Hershel from The Walking Dead rides up with his men, wanting Bale and company off his land, taking their dead Indian with them. At this point Bale has had enough, you know he’s going to have to kill these people. But doing so means the rest of his company dies and so does the rest of Chief Yellow Hawk’s family. Everyone but the young boy.
Now with no family, Rosalie takes him in, raising him as her own. Irony, Indians killed her whole family and now she’s raising one. The same goes for Bale’s character. A man who has nothing but hatred in his eyes for these people, now finds himself having a sort of respect for them.
I thought it had a pretty satisfying ending as well. Rosalie and Bale’s character say their goodbyes at the train station, but as he starts to walk away, he changes his mind and jumps on her train.
The two grew closer as the journey went on, two broken people finding comfort in one another. A slightly happier ending than I was expecting for a film like this.
Is this the best western I’ve seen? No. My favorite western still being The Great Silence, a film with an ending that’s the furthest from being “happy” as one can be.
I’ve always been more of a spaghetti western fan. They just appeal to me more. They’re more stylistic, not to mention violent. Though The Wild Bunch is an American made western and it’s about as violent as one can get.
I can say Hostiles is better than the last few modern western films I’ve seen. It has this novel feel to it. Like this was adapted from some epic western tale. But it’s not. It can get slightly repetitive at times, they walk a bit, rest, talk, get attacked, someone dies, and then repeat.
But the acting is all top notch, the action scenes when they have them are all intense and brutal. Characters you think might stick around a while die instantly. Characters you think are safe because they’re young or kids are all fair game, even the ones currently nominated for an Oscar.
I’m slightly torn on what I should rate this. On one hand, I think people should see more westerns at the theater but also, I kind of hate seeing westerns at a theater. So I might have to give this one a RENT IT.
It’s still worth checking out, but maybe wait to see it in the comfort of your own home with a glass of whiskey.
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