Joe Blocker (Christian Bale) is a martial living in Fort Berringer, New Mexico in 1892, and one day the colonel Abraham Briggs gives him a request straight from the President, and that's to escort an Indian/Cheyenne named Yellow Hawk and his family to Montana. Blocker has a history of evil native Americans so he's against this but he could be charged if otherwise. To put the journey he is forced into in perspective, this is the distance they have to travel by foot.
The movie's opening is the most brutal I've seen in recent memory, and does its job of making you interested in what's supposed to happen next. The message it's trying to send is then clearly displayed: In the time of the old West, no one is safe, and every second of every day you or all your friends and family could get murdered the next time a breeze drafts by. And when that happens, people envy the simplicity of death. It's kind of insane how easy it is then and still is today to live for years: thousands upon thousands of days and one pull of a trigger and good aim can stop all those days and dreams dead in their tracks. It's really discomforting. In a way, we're watching a group of skeletal figures with some skin and hair doing what they're doing to survive with a mystery as to why. These people have the looks in their eyes that the world is never going to get better.
The movie's scenes when we get to see the valleys of 1892 while our hostiles trudge across them are marvelous, every hill and tree showing beauty and terror at the same time. And as the travel progresses, you really feel like Joe and his accomplices are crossing the country. But there's a cork in the horseshoe. This is a movie which gladly takes its time and has long moments of nothing happening, and the result is a movie that feels like background noise while you catch up with friends rather than a movie ticket experience. It's more of a movie with a scenario to think about rather than popcorn. I'd say a little over a third of the time my mind was wandering, thinking about when I should get ready for homework, and that's the type of criticism that usually constitutes a negative review. To put it basically, it was often boring. And as the story progresses and this team gets brutalized as they tire their horses out and run out of ammo, there's unsurprisingly a time where Blocker and Yellow Hawk have to try to trust each other and we see Blocker start to grow on the group. Yet I became curious about Blocker's exact history and if he's ever escorted people before. He must have, but the movie is not quite as informative as I was hoping.
I'm still recommending it because, as I said, I gave it some room in my mind to process. And at least it didn't make me want to tear my eyes out. Fifty Shades of Black and Aloha are examples of movies that were both bad and made every second feel like a trudge through a vat of butter.
This is also a movie so out of the norm of what I usually watch you could call it experimental. It might be the most quiet movie I've ever seen, beating out 'mother!' and 'American Sniper'. Also, usually in movies like this, it's easier to know the characters by their faces rather than their names. Blocker's escorts are here because he hired them and Yellow Hawk's family is there because they're his family. They're no different from any other escort crew you'd see in the hills in 1892. I guess director Scott Cooper and I agree on that because I didn't know the actual names of any of the natives, because they didn't say. The escorts have names but often I was either anticipating another fight or my mind was wandering again whenever their names might be brought up. This minimal side character development can be a disadvantage because it can be harder for their deaths to have an impact. Which is where the length and time we spend with these characters in drawn out sequences comes in handy. You can almost feel like they're survivors who have somehow lived to be bigger than the child of the native family. There is also a lot of subbed dialogue not just with the natives, and the actors do such a good job whenever this happens, I actually felt these were characters with their history mirroring their eyes.
As for the climax? Usually the ending determines the final grade of a movie. One time my grade shifted in the last two minutes from a B+ to a C+. Another time it was a C to a D-.
Surprisingly, in Hostiles, the ending was my favourite part of the movie. Upsetting and simple yet terrific, it put me in enough shoes to fill my sister's closet and kept making me anticipated on what Blocker was going to do next, and made me think about what's in store for the future of the rest of the characters. Though we probably won't find out, Hostiles is an overlong western that maintains appeal. It's not worth seeing multiple times, as this movie showcases a small group of outsiders going through a dismal life-ending-or-changing trip and when they get to where they were aiming for it feels like the story is better left well enough alone. But once is just fine.