"Somber, Tragic and Violent but Hopeful Cavalry Picture"
HOSTILES is a somber cavalry picture about a U.S. cavalry captain in the Old West in 1892 who’s given an unwanted job to escort his dying former enemy, a Cheyenne Indian chief, from New Mexico all the way back to his ancestral home in Montana. Though a bit slow, with a tragic third act, HOSTILES ends on a hopeful, poignant note and has a light Christian worldview, but there’s some strong foul language and very strong violence (along with some political correctness) throughout the movie that ultimately cast a pall on the hopeful parts.
HOSTILES is a somber cavalry picture about a U.S. cavalry captain in the Old West in 1892 who’s given an unwanted job to escort his dying former enemy, a Cheyenne Indian chief, from New Mexico all the way back to his ancestral home in Montana. Though a bit slow, with a bittersweet, tragic third act, HOSTILES ends on a hopeful, poignant note and has a light Christian worldview, but there’s some strong foul language and very strong violence (along with some political correctness) throughout the movie that ultimately cast a pall on the hopeful parts.
The movie opens with a Comanche Indian raiding party attacking a family farmhouse somewhere in New Mexico. They kill the husband, his two daughters and his baby, but the wife, Rosalee, survives. She was teaching grammar to the older girls when the Comanches arrived on horseback.
Cut to Fort Berringer, an isolated military outpost in New Mexico. The colonel running the post orders Capt. Joseph Blocker, a hardened Army veteran, to escort a Cheyenne war chief dying of cancer, Chief Yellow Hawk, and his family back to their ancestral home in Montana so that Yellow Hawk may be buried there and the family transferred to the local authorities running the nearby Indian reservation. Before being imprisoned seven years ago, Yellow Hawk had been a chief enemy of Capt. Blocker, who saw the chief and his tribe viciously slaughter many of his men. In return, Blocker slaughtered many Indians.
Blocker at first refuses to do the job because of his hatred for Yellow Hawk and all other Indians, but the colonel is looking for some good publicity by releasing Yellow Hawk and his family, and so is the President of the United States who signed the release order. The colonel threatens to court martial Blocker, who’s about to retire, and take away his Army pension. So, Blocker reluctantly agrees. He takes along his longtime friend, Sgt. Metz; Corporal Henry Woodson, an African American solider Blocker took under his wing years ago because he fought with the man’s father; a West Point graduate; and, a young French immigrant who recently joined the Army.
Once Blocker’s small band is out of sight from the fort, he angrily orders chains be put on Chief Yellow Hawk and his son, Black Hawk. Blocker and Yellow Hawk engage in a brief staring contest where Blocker displays his contempt, then they continue.
Soon, they come across the burned-out farmhouse from the opening scene. They find a delirious Rosalee, who’s holding tightly on to her dead baby while sitting beside the covered corpses of her two daughters. Blocker and his men and Chief Yellow Hawk and his family try to comfort the distraught woman.
The next day, they all realize that the Comanche war party probably is still lurking nearby. Not only that, but they still have about another 1,000 miles to go. So, the Indians and the soldiers are compelled to work together in order to survive. During the journey, Rosalee becomes the civilizing bridge that can keep the band together, but not without plenty of tragedy.
HOSTILES is a bit slow and often too somber, but it’s finely crafted and very well acted. Christian Bale plays Capt. Blocker, Wes Studi plays Chief Yellow Hawk, and Rosamund Pike plays Rosalee. They are all excellent, as is the supporting cast. Happily, the movie contains some stirring poignant, uplifting moments and a bittersweet but hopeful ending.
Writer/Director Scott Cooper admits he wanted to do a western with modern sensibilities. He says he wants the movie to help viewers “better understand our dark and unforgiveable past toward our indigenous peoples.” He also says he wants the movie to help Americans overcome the division that’s rampant in today’s America by preaching “reconciliation, healing and inclusion.” Inclusion, of course, is a politically correct, leftist term that’s often filled with moral relativism as well as combined with strident leftist attacks on America and its history, and on the traditional Christian, biblical values and heritage that made America the freest, most generous and most creative nation on earth.
As described above, Cooper’s vision leads to a Romantic, politically correct, Anti-American subtext in HOSTILES. Ultimately, however, the movie’s hopeful ending and main theme of peaceful reconciliation between two enemies, Capt. Blocker and Chief Yellow Hawk, reflects a light Christian worldview. Although Blocker and Rosalee wonder why God has let so much tragedy and pain into their two worlds, they still maintain their Christian faith. The movie also contains some brief positive references to Scripture.
In addition to these positive aspects, the basic story shows that it’s Rosalee’s civilizing nature and inherent Christian optimism, faith and hope that, despite tragedy, helps Blocker and Chief Yellow Hawk put aside the past and reconcile. Eventually, they come to respect one another, despite all the past violence between them during the Indian Wars. Rosalee also helps Blocker begin to make the transition from being a hardened, bitter soldier in pain to being a good civilian. This, coupled with the hopeful ending, negates some of the movie’s implied criticism of American civilization. It shows that, despite its flaws, America still provides a chance to correct those flaws and make a better world.
Finally, though the movie shows that great injustices were committed against Native Americans by European Americans, it also shows Native Americans could also be cruel and mean. In fact, at one point, Chief Yellow Hawk tells Capt. Blocker that the murderous Comanches suffer from “unsound minds” that make no discrimination between white people and other Indians. In this way, the movie avoids being too one-sided.
In the great tradition of literary and cinematic westerns, HOSTILES shows dark hostile forces threatening women and children while the hero steps in to save them. In HOSTILES, however, it’s not just the white women and children who are threatened, it’s also Chief Yellow Hawk and his son’s wives who are threatened. Also, the dark hostile forces aren’t just marauding Indians, it’s also white men. This motif makes HOSTILES unique and gives the movie its name.
So, in the end, HOSTILES has a light positive Christian worldview with strong moral elements. However, it includes some “f” words and some strong profanities, as well as some very strong violence; so, extreme caution is advised.
(C, BB, PP, PC, RH, AP, Ro, LL, VVV, S, A, D, M) Light, but sometimes depressing and bittersweet, Christian worldview with some strong moral elements and a certain respect is developed for the positive possibilities that American civilization still has despite all its flaws (which are shown to be considerable in the movie, but which the movie also shows is part of humanity’s sinful nature, a Christian, biblical concept) and for soldiers who do their duty and honor the brotherhood they have with their fellow comrades in arms but who also can reconcile with their enemies after the fighting is done, but marred by a subtext that includes some implied politically correct thinking and light revisionist history designed to implicitly attack modern American society, along with some Anti-American, Romantic elements where the main characters are sometimes shown as victims of a sick society, though it’s not as bad as the PC content and revisionist history in DANCES WITH WOLVES and other leftist westerns (the movie does show that Native Americans also did evil things during the various wars they waged against European Americans); 16 obscenities (including four anachronistic “f” words), six strong profanities and two light profanities; some very strong and strong action violence includes men and women shot dead during two or three gunfights, gunfights, Indians shoot two girls from a distance, it’s implied a baby is hit as Indians shoot at girls and their mother who are running away (the mother is holding the baby) and the baby’s blanket has some blood on it implying what happened, mother holds tightly onto the baby in the blanket as she sits next to the covered-up corpses of the two daughters, talk of past violence, it’s implied that three kidnapped women have been raped (not shown), villain beats woman in the dark for making a noise that she didn’t really do, sounds of violence comes from two tents where kidnappers go to rest at night but get their just desserts, people hit by arrows, two men fight to the death in the dark with the victorious man shooting the other man at the end, scalping, image of a corpse and a hanged man from a distance, and man tells story about a woman kidnapped in the past by Indians who cut off her nose (a true story apparently), and man also talks about American soldiers killing Indian women and children (also true apparently); no sex scenes but it’s implied though not shown that three kidnapped women have been raped, and in one scene rain forces man to sleep in a tent with woman, and she strokes his head at one point before the scene cuts away; no nudity; brief alcohol use; brief smoking in one or two scenes; and, men kidnap three women washing clothes in a stream at night, Army captain hates all Indians because some Indians brutally killed his comrades, and colonel threatens another officer with losing his Army pension if he doesn’t do a mission designed to curry positive publicity for the colonel and the government.
Set in 1892, HOSTILES stars Christian Bale as Army Captain Joe Blocker. Blocker reluctantly agrees to escort his longtime enemy, Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk, who’s dying of cancer, from New Mexico to the chief’s tribal lands in Montana. Blocker hates Indians because of the brutalities the chief and other tribes inflicted on his comrades the past 22 years. The Army escort, the chief and his family encounter Rosalie, the sole survivor of a brutal Comanches war party that murdered her husband and three children, including a baby. The Indians, soldiers and Rosalie must work together to survive the Comanches, a condemned murderer, some evil fur trappers, and a violent landowner.
HOSTILES is somewhat slow and sometimes too somber, but it’s finely crafted and well acted. Despite the terrible tragedies that happen, the movie ends on a hopeful note reflecting a Christian worldview. It also contains some stirring, uplifting moments promoting reconciliation and protecting women and children. However, HOSTILES contains some “f” words and strong profanities, as well as some very strong violence and other dark elements; so, extreme caution is advised.