Combustible Celluloid
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With: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Jesse Plemons, Adam Beach, Rory Cochrane, Peter Mullan, Scott Wilson, Paul Anderson, Timothée Chalamet, Ben Foster, Jonathan Majors, John Benjamin Hickey, Q’orianka Kilcher, Tanaya Beatty, Bill Camp, Scott Shepherd, Ryan Bingham, Robyn Malcolm
Written by: Scott Cooper, based on a manuscript by Donald E. Stewart
Directed by: Scott Cooper
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, and language
Running Time: 133
Date: 01/05/2018

Hostiles (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Brave and Cold

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Scott Cooper, whose Crazy Heart was like catnip for Oscar voters, now seemingly tries to take on something close to Dances With Wolves, an epic (i.e. very long) Western that supposedly has some feel for American Indians as human beings rather than as villains or savages. He casts some of the very best actors around, like Wes Studi, Adam Beach, and Q'orianka Kilcher, as Indians and then gives them nothing to do but sort of sit around, stare, and look noble. (It wants to be a very pro-Indian movie, but has very little use for them.) The main character is, of course, a white man, Capt. Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale), who hates Indians, but who gets the order to escort chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family back to Montana, where the terminally ill old chief can die in peace on his own land; the president himself (a real one) has signed the order for it. Along the way, Blocker discovers a woman, Rosalee Quaid (Rosamund Pike), whose family has been ruthlessly slaughtered by Comanche, and takes her along on the quest. They also pick up a white soldier (Ben Foster) accused of brutally killing Indians, but who claims that he's innocent. A bunch of other great actors appear in smaller roles, but barely register. There are attacks and and slayings, and eventually Blocker learns to get over his prejudice. Cooper has a taste for outdoor cinematography, and the specific sights and sounds of Westerns, and there are a great many chunks of Hostiles in which one can get satisfyingly lost. But then some terrible idea or some hackneyed action sequence comes in and ruins it. John Ford attempted this kind of thing years ago, in both The Searchers and Cheyenne Autumn, with far richer, more poetic results.

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