Hostiles: not a place to learn history but a good parable of friendship

“Set in 1892, Hostiles tells the story of a legendary Army Captain (Christian Bale), who after stern resistance, reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief (Wes Studi) and his family back to tribal lands. Making the harrowing and perilous journey from Fort Berringer, an isolated Army outpost in New Mexico, to the grasslands of Montana, the former rivals encounter a young widow (Rosamund Pike), whose family was murdered on the plains. Together, they must join forces to overcome the punishing landscape, hostile Comanche and vicious outliers that they encounter along the way.”
Rotten Tomatoes description 

Spoiler alert

I saw “Hostiles” today. I read some reviews that criticize the movie for various historical anachronisms. I think these are legitimate concerns in judging the believability of a film. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to base your understanding of history.

But that’s also not the contribution of “Hostiles.”

The movie begins with Comanche warriors killing Rosalie Quaid’s (Pike) family.

Blocker also is resistant to being with Native Americans. He’s ordered to return Yellow Hawk (Studi) and his family to their native land, hundreds of miles away. Blocker and Yellow Hawk have a history. But Yellow Hawk is in failing health, and the army has decided to free him from imprisonment.

There is a hatred between the men. At the beginning of the journey, Blocker has Yellow Hawk put in chains.

Blocker and his soldiers come across Quaid’s house which has been burned down. When she see the Native Americans with the group, she’s weary.

Soon, the group is ambushed by the Comanches. Blocker realizes he must trust Yellow Hawk as the two enemies become allies against a common foe. Over time, Quaid softens to the Native Americans as well. They offer her clothes to wear, braid her hair.

After fur trappers kidnap Quaid and Yellow Feather’s daughter-in-law, Blocker and Yellow Feather again have to work together to rescue the two women.

Shortly after, Blocker reaches out to Yellow Feather and his family to see if there’s anything they need.

They eventually reach Montana. In a poignant scene (the best scene of the movie), Blocker and Yellow Feather join hands and express their adoration to each other. The two men who were once hostiles toward each other, now are able to recognize each other as friends.

Not an historical movie. But a parable about the brotherhood that men who have been taught to hate each other can experience through relationship. It’s an important reminder for today, with all of the dissent and strife amongst various groups and people. Racial tensions are a result of a sinful world, but they are not inherent to how we view each other. Two little kids who are totally different can play together peacefully. It’s men who grow to hate each other.

For some final thoughts, I tend to prefer movies that are based in reality and are plausible. Elements of this movie weren’t (such as when Rosalie Quaid’s character continues on the journey with the soldiers through dangerous terrain).

Being a western where there’s a journey, I expected it to be a beautifully scenic film, which it was.

jrb

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Categories: Commentary, Review

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