Referencing DH Lawrence at the outset Hostiles continues the Hollywood trend (Suburbicon, The Shape of Water) to blame the caucasian male for everything that seems to be terrible in American history, real or otherwise. There's an opening slaughter of homesteaders by a marauding band of Commanches but by the last reel it is overwhelmingly clear who the monsters are after two interchangeable groups of surly Euros along with a guilt ridden trooper apologizing for the white man's misdeeds blot the screen with their miscreant ways. In its attempt to be "even handed" it takes a side.
Veteran Indian fighter Captain Blocker (Christian Bale) is assigned to take ailing Chief Yellow Hawk back to his homeland in Montana. The stoic Blocker, an heroic racist balks at first but is given little option. Once along the uneasy trail conflict and camaraderie mingle.
Stuck in a funk from start to finish Hostiles is more saunter than gallop as our morose and taciturn band of uneasy riders make their way across the breathtakingly stunning landscape of North American wilderness. Spending more time burying people than communicating director Scott Cooper keeps the meter running as he wastes time with endless close-ups and pregnant pauses that more or less examine the same issue repetively. Without an ounce of comic relief Hostiles simply strings along one tragedy after the next as writer director Cooper sluggishly attempts to nuance his irony of civilized savage versus noble Native American.
Note: An ideal antidote for this mawkish work is Ulzana's Raid (1972) directed by Richard Fleischer and featuring Burt Lancaster. Dealing with a similar issue it is far more honest and coldly objective. Plus Burt does not have much time to reflect or shed a tear like Bale does a couple of time in Hostiles; he's too busy trying to keep his hair.
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