Christian Bale and Wes Studi star as a jaded soldier and a Native American chief in Scott Cooper’s 'Hostiles'


Hostiles ★★★

Director Scott Cooper has a knack for getting good work from his performers, whether it’s Johnny Depp inhabiting Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, or Jeff Bridges strumming his way toward an Oscar in Crazy Heart. But for the most part, Cooper’s films have not been that memorable from a narrative standpoint. The same was true for 2013’s Out of the Furnace, his overwrought drama drawn from spare parts of The Deer Hunter. But with his reteaming with one of that film’s stars, Christian Bale, he’s come the closest to hitting the target of the American mythology he’s been aiming for. It helps that Hostiles, a Western based on an unproduced manuscript by the late Donald E. Stewart (a writer on Paramount’s first three Jack Ryan pictures), features a compelling story. Set in 1892, the tale focuses on Capt. Joseph J. Blocker (Bale), a haunted soldier who’s seen (and taken part in) too much bloodshed. Harboring a deep hatred for Native Americans, the reluctant Blocker nevertheless agrees to escort a former enemy, cancer-stricken Cheyenne war chief Yellow Hawk (Dances with Wolves’ Wes Studi) and his family (Adam Beach, Q’orianka Kilcher and Xavier Horsechief) from New Mexico’s Fort Berringer to the plains of Montana, where he can die on his tribal lands. The perilous journey sees a tremendous amount of death, as they pick up a shellshocked war widow (Rosamund Pike) and fend off hostile Comanche. It may not be Unforgiven, but that’s a forgivable sin in this better-than-expected drama. (At Boston Common and in the suburbs.)

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