Scott Cooper exploded on the scene with Crazy Heart, that saw Jeff Bridges bag an oscar for Jeff Bridges as the troubled ageing country singing star in middle America. His follow up was the chilling slow burn vengeance thriller Out Of The Furnace starring Christian Bale. After the inner-city gangster biopic Black Mass, Cooper returns to the plains of America along with Christian Bale as revered Calvary Captain Joseph Blocker reluctantly tasked with returning his adversary dying Apache Chief Yellowhawk, Wes Studi, from the prison in Old Mexico to a reservation in Montana, as part of a movement by the US Government to appease the history of conflict with the natives. Riddled with inner conflict that goes against his beliefs, Blocker’s duty as a soldier is takes precedent above his feelings. Their journey is perilous with dangers from murderous Native tribes and white hunters, including rescuing a traumatised wife and mother Rosalie Quaid, Rosamund Pike, whose family are brutally murdered. Upon the threat of enemies in their way, Blocker must throw his trust into Yellow Hawk and his family to team up as a defensive unit, which leads to a journey of self-reflection upon Blocker’s prejudice and his own history of savagery equalled by his old foe.
Hostiles feels like a return to form for Cooper and Bale is at his pensive best in this film that is brutal, raw and reflective upon the treatment of Native Americans by the invaders that is not shy to show the violent aftermath of both sides. Screen time is perhaps a bit bias towards those of the settler’s camp but Studi’s stoicism acts as a good contrast to Bale’s slow unravelling, whilst both characters are coming to their end of their life force, with Blocker as a soldier facing retirement whose life has been shaped by conflict and war. It’s hard to find a weak link, with the individual paramaters of the film, from lighting, supporting cast, score and cinematography that shows the harshness of the American plains but also it’s majestic beauty. Richly thematic in the debate of racism where Hollywood has a very guilty past of villainising Native Americans on screen but also explores the melancholy of a soldier coming to reflect his past via a star turn from Rory Cochrane as Blocker’s right hand man Seargent Thomas Metz.
A once prolific genre, Cooper breathes new life into the Western and on a personal note, Hostiles sits among some of the best pieces of cinema I’ve seen in a long time, a modern day Michael Cimino, it should not take long for Cooper to become on the American greats of cinema.