It’s not often that I can go into a movie with no clue what it’s about and walk out happy that I went. But that’s exactly what happened when I went to watch “Hostiles,” with lead Christian Bale. I’m fine with admitting that I like him as an actor even though he’s had some rough things leak out from behind the scenes, like tantrums and a propensity for rage at random grips on set.
But with that out of my mind as I sat in the theater by myself, I realized this was another wild western movie. The cinematography and time-appropriate music drew me in immediately to an action-packed opening scene that put me on the edge of my seat. For real.
We’re greeted to the native savages galloping on horseback to a family’s home, killing a father, scalping him on-screen, setting fire to their house and shooting and killing his children as they run away with their mother towards the forest. She holds her newborn in her hands as we see the baby wrap dripping blood with the natives on her heels. She hides in the forest in a moment of complete silence for us. No music, wind or animals. And the movie begins.
From here, the movie settles in to its R rating. But not one for unnecessary foul language or sexuality. Mainly violence, and a lot of it. But that is this movie’s main strength. You will feel like you’re actually with Christian Bale in the Wild West. Language to a college student isn’t usually shocking, and in this case, it melds right in with the characters as it would in the Middle East with soldiers today.
The movie sports some great twists and turns while hinting at sexual tension that (spoilers) it doesn’t resolve it typical modern movie fashion. It tries to do what the movie “Shane” (1953) did by leaving the tension unresolved so as to not tarnish the moral reputation of our hero.
But “Hostiles” doesn’t show us a morally perfect hero. In fact, the film is about him overcoming his built-in hate of the “native savages” and respecting them as people who deserve his respect and trust. At the end, he must decide what to do with this woman who has accompanied him through a harrowing trip through the largely uncharted West filled with various trials and tribulations.
In “Shane,” our hero rides off into the sunset against the desire of everyone engaged in the scene. “Hostiles” gives us the tension, gives us the opportunity for the same moment and then decides that our hero should take another path and stay with the widow instead.
And so “Hostiles” is currently being praised as a great movie, but a sign of the times shifting from caring about moral and sexual virtue, to not. Either way, “Hostiles” is worth your time and your money.
Bray Snyder is a sophomore broadcasting major. This review reflects the opinion of the author only.