Hostiles movie cast: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Rory Cochrane, Ben Foster, Wes Studi, Adam Beach
Hostiles movie director: Scott Cooper
Hostiles movie rating: 2 stars
The film starts with a D H Lawrence quote about the American soul being essentially hard, and “not having melted yet.” While it spends the next 133 minutes or so trying to show that the soul could learn to do that, it is hard to feel the love.
Several haunting scenes are not enough to do the trick, though the one at the start where Mrs Quaid (Pike) loses her two girls, a baby at the breast and her husband in an attack is a kick in the guts. Pike’s searing grief hangs heavy over the rest of the film, for whatever it shows next, from peeling off of scalps, to the many deaths and even rapes, doesn’t match up.
Cooper mounts a visually impressive film, which is a long ride from across the violent and wild American south in 1892, all the way to Montana. It’s his efforts at establishing an emotional arc that makes the same distance fall woefully short.
The trenchant Bale, always an actor who can make everything he does seem important but remote, struggles to portray a battle-hardened Captain of the Union army, named Joe, who reluctantly escorts a notorious Native Indian Chief to home as part of a deal.
Pike, apart from that first scene, never connects, including in Mrs Quaid’s growing proximity with Joe. And the Indians, despite this film about the two sides discovering the good in the other, remain mostly a decoration.
It’s the weary soldiers accompanying Bale who make the most impression, trying to hold on to some certainty in a world of violence without end.