Film review: Hostiles is handsomely shot and superbly directed

Christian Bale as Captain Joseph Blocker in Hostiles. Photo: ENTERTAINMENT FILM DISTRIBUTORS/LOREY S

Christian Bale as Captain Joseph Blocker in Hostiles. Photo: ENTERTAINMENT FILM DISTRIBUTORS/LOREY SEBASTIAN - Credit: Entertainment Film Distributors

Writer and director Scott Cooper follows the success of moving drama Crazy Heart (2009) and hard-bitten crime thrillers Out of the furnace (2013) and Black Mass (2015) with arresting and haunting western Hostiles.

Set in 1892 the film follows Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) who, along with a small group of fellow soldiers, is tasked with transporting dying Cheyenne war chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family from New Mexico to their tribal homeland in Montana.

Cooper’s unflinching, dextrous direction together with Masanobu Takayanagi’s sweeping cinematography perfectly captures the harsh, unforgiving terrain of the American frontier and the atrocities that took place within.

One particularly upsetting sequence sees Blocker passively watching his men as they torment a Native American family in their custody.

While Cooper and Takayanagi’s work is remarkable, it is the performances of the central cast that linger in the memory long after the end credits roll.

Most impressive is Bale. The actor beautifully conveys the battle-hardened Blocker’s gradual respect and affection for Yellow Hawk.

It is an astonishing performance and one that will hopefully not be overlooked this awards season.

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Rosamund Pike is equally effective as grief stricken widow Rosalie Quaid who is forced to join Blocker’s party.

Praise must also be given to Studi’s quiet, dignified performance as Yellow Hawk and Rory Cochrane’s scene stealing turn as Blocker’s world-weary second in command, Sergeant Thomas Metz.

Handsomely shot and superbly directed, Hostiles is a spellbinding, harrowing work of beauty.

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