Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Hostiles- A Big Screen Western Treat

There was a time when western movies was the usual fare at the local movie theater.These days with so few western movies coming of Hollywood it is a rare treat to see a new one on the big screen in a movie theater. The other day I had the rare treat of seeing "Hostiles". This is a revisionist western, much different from the usual shoot-em-ups that we used to thrill too. But, it is a western  and it is a good one.
  Westerns were made for color, though most westerns of the past were in black and white because of the technology of the time, both in movies and black and white TV. Excellent cinematography makes "Hostiles" a visual delight.
  Christian Bale delivers an excellent performance as Joe Blocker, an Army Captain detailed to escorting a dying Indian chief to Montana, where he could die and be buried in tribal holy land. Blocker is haunted by the savage past of Indians wars and loss of life of former friends and soldiers. The task assigned to him is not of his liking and he only wants revenge, but he is a stalwart individual and above dealing it out himself.
  "Hostiles" is a one word title which i believe the producers wanted a one word title to be austere and as a remembrance of Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven." I do not believe the title here was that appropriate. Granted it is a word that conjures up some semblance of indicating this a western. I have know suggestion for what it could have been titled. Could have been "Maybe Forgiven" but that would have been awful, if perhaps appropriate.
  The direction of this film was fine in a poetic way. There were a few scenes that I felt were extraneous and reminiscent of those inserted in silent movies to evoke a moment of emotion. Often times the pace was slow and lumbering. This seems to be the understanding of what a western is these days as a direct result of the slow but dramatic Sergeone Leone films that spawned the era of spaghetti westerns. The story here, though slow paced,  progressed nicely. Action scenes, though quick and intermittent were well done and the violence was realistic and brutal.The ambush scene as the cavalry officers and their charges rode on steadfastly, was quick and surprising. The initial shot stirred me in my seat with a jolt. Very effective.
  Hopefully, "Hostiles" will do well in the theaters and will prompt Hollywood to make more good westerns. I have little hope though, that younger generations find this type of western appealing. It is too slow and too thought provoking. Younger audiences need action and constant visual attraction.
  Just as westerns evolved from the early day action packed oaters to the slow moving pace and cinematic landscapes, perhaps it is time for westerns to evolve again into an exciting and perhaps not so brutal and realistic form. I do do miss the mythic western, although I recognize that the more realistic versions are also mythic, but in a more subtle way.

  Until next time,
Thanks for riding the trail


1 comment:

  1. Good review. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I will on your recommendation. Outdoor Westerns should be a visual delight and I'm glad to know that cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi did a good job on this one.

    I've read an interesting footnote about writer/director Scott Cooper working from an original unpublished manuscript written by the late Donald E. Stewart(1930-1999).

    I think that it wouldn't hurt Western movies of today, to be sped up. They don't all have to be slow paced. Also, a sprinkling of humor wouldn't be harmful. I think if English writer/director Guy Ritchie of SHERLOCK HOLMES(2009) and SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS(2011) would make a Western, it would most certainly be differently paced and with humor.