Hostiles follows the basic formula of another Christian Bale-led western. 3:10 to Yuma. Both follow a man as he transports a criminal across dangerous territory. But only one of these movies actually deserves a spot on my shelf.

Captain Joseph Blocker (Bale) hates injuns. OR at least, one particular Native American: Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi). Due to the chief’s age and cancer ridden state, the United States government has seen to it that he should die on his native lands. You know, the ones taken from him. Blocker doesn’t want to be the one to transport him across dangerous Comanche territory, but he’s forced into it because pension funds.

Along the way they find Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) whose entire family was just murdered by Comanche raiders. Together, they make their way north to Montana.

It’s really a beautiful movie. Lots of wild west style shots and locales. Lonely trees, vast plains with lightning arcing through them. Quite the show. The kind of scenery designed to make you think about the themes of the movie between long shots.

What are the themes? I came up with a few ideas. Violence begets violence. That’s certainly a big one. You have to put away the past for a brighter future, also a possibility. But any theme you settle on, seems to get thrown out in the next scene as death after violent, pointless death mounts up. Is the theme violence is pointless? Maybe, but you should’ve killed everyone in that situation. Rather than clearly cherry picking who should die at any given moment. There’s so many occasions where both bad and good guys are eerily accurate (Quaid’s baby gets shot in her arms as she runs away) that when they miss it feels cheap.

The whole movie feels cheap. Like I was cheated out of a great film that had both Christian Bale and ANOTHER 3:10 to Yuma alum Ben Foster. Maybe you’ll find more meaning, I fail to see the point.

Also, a white man handing a biography of Julius Caesar to a Native American boy is the height of irony. Caesar systematically butchered and enslaved his way through Italy, France, England, and Germany. It might have been less ironic if he handed him Custer’s biography.

2 out of 4 stars.

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