I’ve never imagined that if I ever started writing for myself again and for pleasure as a whole, I’d start with something like this. Why is that so weird, you’ll ask. Well, it’s because probably almost none of you have even heard about this movie before (as it was in my case) and the only reason I actually watched it was pure coincidence.
I said “coincidence” because my German language skills are not nearly good enough which makes watching a movie in Germany pretty hard (as almost all of them are dubbed). Therefore, when I found out that there is a cinema which shows a sneak preview of a random upcoming movie that is also in original version (meaning in English) every week, I couldn’t just pass on it. So that’s literally how I came across “Hostiles” (well, I didn’t go the following week and I’m still kind of mad at myself because the movie was one of those that I really wanted to watch and now I’ll have to go to a particular screening to see it, but this is an entirely different topic which we’ll probably discuss next week) which, sadly, brought me more negative feelings than expected.
So, after this quite long introducion, it’s time to take a look at the movie itself. Usually before every movie screening there are a couple of trailers that show upcoming movies and are not even nearly related to the one that is going to be shown. In this case, however, I found it pretty unusual that they played trailers of movies that have been released in the middle of 20th century and one of them in particular stood out – the one for “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” which was literally screaming “western”. That feeling that I had for the upcoming movie turned out to be true after all – “Hostiles” is indeed a western drama taking place at the end of the 19th century. I generally don’t like going into details about the plot of the movie but this time I’ll allow myself to tell you a little bit more about it as we are talking about a production that (almost) no one has ever heard of.
Christian Bale’s face when he watched the movie that he had filmed for months …
All in all, we are talking about the clashes between the americans and the indians in the ’90s during the 19th century. In the center of the events is a captain who has reluctantly agreed to ensure the safe travelling of an old Cheyenne (one of the local tribes) chief and his family who have been held hostage for quite a long time because of their actions and with whom the captain has had a bloody meeting in the past. Along the way they come across a woman, whose entire family has been killed by Comanche and who is saved by the Americans and joins them in their journey. I won’t get into any further details as that would mean I’d spoil the rest of the movie for you.
So far so good. Where does the problem lie then? Well, the problem is that actually in the “rest of the movie” nothing really happens. I know what “drama” means but these 130 minutes went so slow and were so boring that I almost fell asleep at least 4-5 times (and, believe me, that never happens to me, especially in the cinema). The movie can be viewed as being split into a couple of parts in which nothing happens in 99% of the time and all of the conversations are weak and meaningless. The rest of the time (the other 1%) is for the action but everything happens so quick and it’s such a chaos that the moment in which the audience is supposed to be tense and intrigued gets lost somewhere in the wilderness.
I admit that I’m not familiar with Scott Cooper’s previous projects but if his filming approach is the same there, then I’m glad I’m not. The endeavour to intertwine a couple of different stories, the idea for an american-indian connection from another viewpoint and the attempts of achieving different types of relationships between the main characters are so mixed that the result is nothing more than a huge mess. In the end all we get is some sort of a happy end and a lot of logical questions which never manage to find their answers.
… And that of Rosamund Pike when someone says that he actually really liked this movie.
So here is another logical question you might ask – is there something in this movie at all that’s worth it? Well, there are actually two answers – Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike (and also the only two names that rang a bell while I was watching the movie). From the American speaking part of the cast they were the only ones whose characters had a reasonable motive and visible desire to do something. Everyone else looked like they were there only to fill the group because the captain had to have a crew and prisoners after all (I admit, though, that the indians weren’t completely tragic and stood in the movie even better than Joe’s small band which is funny knowing that they were actually the ones in chains).
The other thing that we might note as a positive are the action sequences and the clashes which as I mentioned, however, are so short that you will quickly go back into boredom. Also, there is some western (if revolvers, cowboy hats and the desert as main environment count as enough proof) but it feels like it’s only there so that the movie could be put under the genre and not be only a plain drama. Dramas don’t usually boast of great and distinguishable effects so we can tactically conclude that here we have a pretty convincing atmosphere and a decent soundtrack but nothing more than that. Also, honestly speaking, when every other aspect of the movie is so tedious to watch (probably apart from the cast), I don’t even think there’s anything else left to say for it (I’ve probably written enough already) so I’m just going to give you the essence of it:
You might read in some reviews that “Hostiles” is a brutal and brilliant movie. Well, I’m sorry but it is neither of them. Best case scenario, it is a mediocre movie and even though Bale tries hard and I’m also a huge fan of his (mainly because of his role as Batman), he just can’t save it. That’s why I’m convinced that you will definitely find something much better to do in these two hours of free time that you would otherwise waste with an exhausting attempt of reviving a genre whose last great movie has been released in the previous century.