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Ciné Sunday: Hostiles

Scott Cooper

Directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Black MassHostiles is an epic Western, set against the backdrop of stark and beautiful American plains. Although it has many of the traditional genre elements, including horses, danger, righteous heroes and dastardly villains, this new film is so much more than you might expect; it is thoughtful, at times poetic, and utterly engrossing.

Thoughtful, at times poetic, and utterly engrossing.

When the gruff and bitter Captain Blocker (Christian Bale) is ordered to accompany elderly Cheyenne leader Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family back to their tribal lands in Montana, the soldier takes on the mission reluctantly. The two men are sworn enemies after a conflict which saw many fatalities on both sides, and Blocker is openly hostile towards the man he has been ordered to protect. As they set off across the plains through dangerous territory occupied by other tribes, Blocker must do everything he can to get the entire group, including a grief-stricken widow (Rosamund Pike) who joins them en route, to safety. Along the way, danger will come from all sides and Blocker’s steadfast notions of who the enemy is will be fundamentally challenged and changed.

Both Bale and the great Cherokee actor Wes Studi (fans of The Last of the Mohicans will recognise him instantly from his role as Magua) deliver terrific and understated central performances. They are joined by a superior ensemble cast that includes Peter Mullan, Ben Foster, and briefly but memorably, Call Me by Your Name’s Timothée Chalamet.