Award nominated movies get so much hype this time of the year, praised by critics and users alike. However, depending on your tastes, these films are much slower, deeper, and less entertaining than the traditional blockbuster that floods the theater. And this week, the general release of Hostiles starring Rosamund Pike and Christian Bale hits the theaters. Seeing a Western mosey into the theaters again, I had high hopes for this movie shining like the awards suggested it would. What is the verdict? Robbie K is back in the dark trenches to give you his thoughts on yet another film piece. Let’s get started.
The Cinematography/Setting: One thing this movie has going for it, is being shot out in the wilderness frontier. Hostiles is a beautiful display of this beautiful country, jam packed with jaw dropping spectacles of the Midwestern Plains. Dynamic angles and multiple setting help bring you into the theme of the Wild Wild West and get integrated into the world. And given that this story involves a lot of walking, it’s good to have this cinematography supporting the treks of our wandering band of travelers.
The Acting: You can tell I appreciate good performances, and Hostiles have an aggressive performance that is indeed Oscar worthy. With Bale as the leading name, this former vigilante moves from Gotham City to the historical forts of the 19th century. His rough edge works well as a disgruntled, tortured Civil War captain, bringing that hurt out in his steel gaze and tempered delivery. Heroic and honor still dwell in the character, and Bale is able to keep all these pieces aligned to craft the interesting character. As for Pike, her character at first was annoying, but they bounced back and crafted an incredible, resilient warrior whose layers extended past the traumatic dismay of her story. All the supporting characters of military personnel and Native American families were top notch, though their characters dialogue and roles were limited and not as fleshed out.
The Culture/Messages: Hostiles is definitely Oscar worthy in terms of the cultural representation contained in this movie. This time of adventure was certainly exciting, but perhaps one of the hardest times due to all the hostility the country was in. Hostiles visualizes that environment quite well, bringing a realistic portrayal of this struggle and how life is so fragile. However, amidst all the traditions, violence, and hate, there are rays of light that attempt to outshine the darkness/hate. Hostiles representation of forgiveness, honor, courage, and Native American tradition and the artistic presentation is solid and less preachy than some other tales. Such strong lessons in lessons in an emotionally charged portrayal will hopefully hit you deep down.
The Music: These movies are often known for their musical scores, and Hostiles is another grand example of symphony magic. Amidst all the traditions, dense dialogue, and savagery is a fantastic score that adds to the emotions of each scene. Brass instruments lead the charge of the battles, while delicate woodwinds add tranquility to the more peaceful parts. Yet it’s the final scene of the movie that holds my favorite track, a combination of everything to bring that film to an emotion packed ending.
Depressing: I like movies with a darker plot, it allows for more options and a dynamic story that is less predictable. However, I’m not a fan of movies that are terminally depressing, no matter how educational they may be. Hostiles will leave you down and exhausted with everything that transpires, primarily in the Game of Thrones like atmosphere that hangs over the traveling band. Don’t expect to keep your spirits bright at the end of this film friends, because there isn’t much happiness to gleam.
Long: The movie is only over two hours long, but to this reviewer it felt more like four hours. Hostiles is a movie that has a lot of challenges to develop our characters, but it was not an exciting journey for me to be honest. While this one felt more like a traditional Western film, the movie failed to integrate much excitement for me to get it going. There were a couple of suspenseful battles in the mix, but the movie resorts to walking through the woods and drama more than anything. Had the story been more engaging, this would have worked, but that even failed to impress me outside of the morals it taught. Given these limitations for me, this movie could have delivered the same messages in half the time. So, bottom line, movie is long and not that entertaining to the traditional crowd.
Story Editing: The underlying message to this movie is the development of Bale’s character in breaking open the hard-edged soldier and revealing the human beneath. Sadly, the way they go for this, while artistic, was convoluted, sporadic, and kind of pointless. The opening act held potential in the thrilling hike through the wilderness with a hostile enemy in pursuit. However, this component is dropped and a new tangent is introduced. The movie continues this trend and the writers seemed to throw these random, convenient moments in the mix to try to stir things up. These disjointed plot devices, didn’t flow well with me, and these sudden character introductions were lazy without any mention in proceeding conversations. Even the dialogue is mediocre, accurate to the time period, but low amplitude and containing little pertinent details. And when they get to the more emotional moments, they are reduced to quick montages that are over in a pinch. As for the ending when the final journey is reached, that final conflict was a messy end that was hastily developed and not really worthwhile in the grand scheme.
Hostiles is again one of those time period movies that holds much realism in the forests and frontier of the West. The visuals take center stage on this movie, with acting and moral lessons granting an excuse for a big budge stroll through the wilderness. However, this true Western is very drawn out, with heavy handed drama that is depressing and savage in its own right. In addition, the disjointed story does not help support these darker moments for me to give major credit outside of symbolic representation of fighting the demons we all battle. So, while this movie is artistic, thought provoking, and realistic, it’s also not as entertaining as I like in a film. Therefore, I can’t recommend this one for theaters and encourage a visit at home theater to be honest.
Movie Overall: 5.0