Rated 4.0

Director Scott Cooper’s Hostiles is an uncompromising, brutal Western. It makes Clint Eastwood’s classic, somber Western Unforgiven look like Mary Poppins. Christian Bale turns in another spellbinder as Capt. Joseph J. Blocker. Joe, a quiet, tired, jaded soldier, is spending the closing days of his military career in 1892 capturing and imprisoning Native Americans. He has fought many battles, seen many atrocities and committed many of his own. When aging and terminally ill Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) is granted freedom by the President of the United States, somebody who knows his dialect must be chosen to escort him and his family back to Montana. Cooper, who also wrote the screenplay, avoids sermonizing, and opts for a film that takes its sweet time delivering its message. The movie is far from predictable, and nobody in the cast is safe. That cast includes soldiers played by Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird), Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) and impressive, relative unknown Jonathan Majors. Rory Cochrane (Dazed and Confused) is a true standout as a longtime fellow soldier of Joe’s battling “the melancholia.” Rosamund Pike is excellent as a woman they pick up along the way, a devastated mother who has lost her entire family. Bale deserved an Oscar nomination for his work in this film. Joe is the sort of complicated, wounded character Mr. Bale excels at, and Bale’s partnership with Cooper—they collaborated on Out of the Furnace—continues to be one of cinema’s more compelling ones.