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09.05.2017
C.   /   Film Reviews#Hostiles   /   0 Comments

Now that “Hostiles” has screened at Telluride Film Festival the first review is in. THR has released a review and it looks very good!

The specter of sudden and brutal death hangs over everyone all the time in Hostiles, a mournful, sorrowful, persistently powerful Western set in a world of beauty, tears and blood. There’s little new that writer-director Scott Cooper, in his fourth and best feature, can really add to what other films have said about the terrible inevitabilities embedded in the epic story of the settling of America’s frontier. But potent dramatic dynamics and the filmmaker’s self-evident deep immersion and investment in his material enrich this vivid account of the last spasms of Native American resistance in the 1890s. Attracting a significant theatrical audience to this grim tale will be an imposing task, whereas the cast and subject matter might actually attract considerably more discerning viewers on home screens.

Setting out from the red-and-sand-colored landscapes of the little-populated desert, Blocker leads a small party of soldiers (which diversely includes a black man as well as a West Point graduate), along with Yellowhawk and a few of his family members. In short order they come across the catatonic Pike, who naturally becomes hysterical at the sight of more Indians. With no choice but to take her along, Blocker has to watch this wailing woman more closely even than his prisoners, as she seems dead set on suicide.

One of the great pleasures of Hostiles rests in beholding its makers’ great sensitivity to the ever-changing landscape over the northward course of roughly 1,500 miles. Cooper’s West is not a generic one but a series of progressions, from deserts and open plains to moist green forests and rugged mountains. Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi captures it all splendidly but without fuss, while production designer Donald Graham Burt has contributed sharply contrasting accounts of two army outposts.

Contemplative and absorbing rather than rip-roaring and exciting, the film will likely play better to Western connoisseurs than to general and younger audiences, but it’s an estimable piece of work grounded by a fine-grain sensibility and an expertly judged lead performance.

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