* * * ½
(Violent western morality play)
I love westerns. Joyce, not so much. She stayed home.
“Hostiles” has all the elements of a good western, although it often becomes a bit overpowering with its messages of forgiveness and redemption.
The year is 1892. Christian Bale plays Captain Joseph Blocker, a seasoned Indian fighter and Indian hater who, against his will, is forced to safely lead an Indian chief and his family back to their ancestral land in Montana.
The movie opens with the savage killing of a family by a band of Comanches. A mother (Rosamond Pike) and daughter escape. We then watch the savage retaliation by soldiers on Native Americans.
Blocker reluctantly leads his soldiers and the enemies he hates with a vengeance, only to be attacked by rogue Indians, pelt hunters and white landowners. Along the way he saves the grieving widow, buries her family, and takes her and her surviving baby along for the dangerous ride.
The chief and the captain learn that they both had “done their jobs” in killing their enemies, but now must work together to keep themselves from being killed by other enemies. The widowed survivor, who initially carries hate and vengeance in her heart, slowly realizes that the Native Americans have the same hopes, fears and feelings that she does, eventually bonding with the family. Too many graves are dug along the way to Montana, with but a few surviving.
Captain Blocker, faced with many life and death decisions, comes to the realization that we are all people with hearts and souls, leading to his redemption and a somewhat convoluted ending.
The beautiful scenery is a sharp contrast to the merciless violence. We see both points-of-view between the cowboys and the Indians who all have reason to hate and kill the enemy. It takes a lot to walk in the other’s boots and moccasins.
Rated a big R because of the violence and profanity.