Rogue Hippo’s Review Score: 5.5
I’m a big history fan so I expected to like Hostiles, a film about Army Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) tasked with escorting Native American Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) across miles of hostile territory so that Yellow Hawk can die in his homeland. Along the way, nothing goes according to plan and each day is a bitter struggle to survive.
I love survival stories. I love history. I should’ve loved Hostiles. I didn’t. Here’s why…
Hostiles is depressing… really depressing; and this is from someone who prefers dark movies. Dark movies are my bread and butter. In any movie, I prefer it if the characters are fighting tooth and nail for their lives, with most of them coming up short. Yet Hostiles was too much, and I think the reason is this: the moments of light are brighter in contrast with the moments of darkness; and there are no moments of light in Hostiles. In the majority of dark movies that I enjoy, there are at least some intermittent jokes… or brief moments of happiness… or temporary successes. Not in Hostiles. Hostiles is a long, slow grind down to the pits of depression and despair.
To show you what I mean, lets look at the baggage (pun intended) that these individuals carry during their sorrowful trek across the old West:
- Men consumed by racism and rage.
- Men broken by war.
- Prisoners on their way to the gallows.
- Women forced to watch the murder of their children.
- Women who are kidnapped and raped.
- Native Americans who can do nothing to stop the genocide of their people.
- Oh yea… and the Chief has cancer.
And things only get worse from there. No one cracks a single joke; in fact no one even cracks a smile. It’s just 2 hours and 14 minutes that alternates between violent death sequences and dialogues about hardship and sorrow.
That’s not to say that there are no redeeming qualities in Hostiles. The scenery and and shoot-outs and characters’ struggles are quintessential Wild West, so Western fans will find things to enjoy. The acting is also very good… assuming each of them was going for ‘desolate-individual-broken-by-an-unforgiving-world’. Just don’t be surprised if you feel miserable by the end.
Maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age but I would’ve liked some brief moments of joy sprinkled in with the misery. There was one line in the movie that really stuck out:
“I envy the finality of death.”
That about sums up Hostiles for me.
Until Next Time,