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Scott Cooper
Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi
Writing Credits:
Scott Cooper

In 1892, a legendary Army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 134 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 4/24/2018

• “A Journey of the Soul” Documentary
• Previews


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Hostiles [Blu-Ray] (2018)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 13, 2018)

Based on the work of Oscar-winning screenwriter Donald E. Stewart, 2018’s Hostiles takes us to the American West in 1892. US Cavalry Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) spent much of his career in battles against various Native populations and now nears his retirement.

Against that backdrop, Blocker receives an assignment he finds tough to swallow, as he gets orders to escort dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) to his Montana homeland. While Blocker deals with this unwanted task, he also takes in Rosalee Quaid (Rosamund Pike), a distraught widow forced to deal with her own woes.

Hostiles declares its intentions right out of the gate, as the opening assault on Rosalee’s family indicates that we’ll follow a brutal path. This introductory scene shows that the film doesn’t plan to spare us the sight of severe pain and agony, and the next sequence – in which Blocker’s men abuse a Native family – does nothing to lessen the ugliness and intensity.

This remains true through the movie’s 134-minute running time – to a degree, as I don’t want to imply that Hostiles provides nothing other than hate and misery. While the film lacks humor and stays somber, it broadens its characters along the way and demonstrates its own sense of optimism as it progresses.

Realistic optimism, I should say, as the story lacks enormous revelations. Do our leads grow and change as they get to know each other? Yes, and one could call these developments predictable.

Which they may be, but Hostiles paints matters in such a deep, heartbreaking manner that I can forgive its clichés. While we can see the character elements come at us in advance, the film portrays them in such an indelible way that they feel believable and nearly fresh.

That seems remarkable given how well-worn the Western genre is, and I can’t claim that Hostiles breaks any new ground in terms of story areas. The overall plot reminds me of 1949’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and the character domains hearken back to 1956’s The Searchers - and probably a bunch of other films as well.

Despite these clear reminders of other movies, Hostiles feels like its own beast, one that stakes out territory all to itself. We may sense the influence of its predecessors, but the tale still comes across as something that stands on its own.

Writer/director Scott Cooper’s refusal to make the film “accessible” helps, as he resists all urges to tone down the material. In addition to the brutality seen at the movie’s start, Cooper maintains a restrained atmosphere without comic relief or any of the usual material meant to alleviate the darkness.

I appreciate that, and Cooper ensures that enough human kindness evolves to prevent an unrelentingly ugly tale. Happily, Cooper develops the characters and relationships in a gentle way that lacks the usual Hollywood schmalz, so we buy the participants’ growth, and we invest in the roles more than otherwise might be the case because they flow in a convincing manner.

A fine cast helps, of course. Bale does wonders with Captain Blocker, as he manages to allow the character to grow in a virtually seamless manner, and Pike follows suit. She gets the movie’s most broken – and heartbreaking – character, but she avoids cheap theatrics.

Studi acts as a portrait in dignity, a man near death who regrets many of his life decisions but who doesn’t back down from his flaws. A nearly overqualified pack of supporting actors like Ben Foster, Stephen Lang, Rory Cochrane, Adam Beach, Jesse Plemons and Timothée Chalamet flesh out an outstanding group as well.

All of this leads toward a deeply affecting Western. Deliberately paced but not sluggish, the movie invests in its characters well and pays off with a strong emotional journey.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Hostiles appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was mostly a good presentation but it came with some odd lapses.

Actually, sharpness offered my only occasional complaint, as some shots seemed surprisingly soft. These didn’t dominate the movie and remained infrequent, but they popped up often enough to create perplexing distractions.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. The image also lacked any print flaws.

The movie’s palette favored a yellow impression much of the time, with some blue/teal thrown in as well. Within these limited aspirations, the colors appeared clear and full.

Blacks seemed dark and deep, while shadows appeared generally satisfying, though a few nighttime shots could be a bit demse. The occasional softness created the biggest issue, but the movie still looked good most of the time.

While not an action-packed affair, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack came to life well enough when necessary. A fairly introspective film, the mix largely concentrated on music and general atmosphere.

The occasional action sequence opened up matters well, though, with violent elements that spanned the soundscape in an engrossing manner. Other segments like a thunderstorm added positive impact as well.

Audio quality satisfied, with speech that appeared natural and concise. Music sounded vivid and full, with lush tones.

Effects came across as robust and clean, as those elements gave us accurate material with positive range. All in all, the soundtrack suited the story.

Only one extra shows up on this Blu-ray: a three-part documentary called A Journey of the Soul: The Making of Hostiles. Across its one-hour, three-minute, five-second running time, it includes comments from writer/director Scott Cooper, producer John Lesher, Comanche consultant William Voelker, consultants Joely Proudfit and Chris Eyre, set decorator Edward McLoughlin, costume designer Jenny Eagan, stunt coordinator Doug Coleman, and actors Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Adam Beach, Jesse Plemons, Ben Foster, David Midthunder, Q'orianka Kilcher, Rory Cochrane, Scott Wilson, Jonathan Majors, Timothée Chalamet, and Ryan Bingham.

“Soul” looks at the film’s roots and development, story/characters, cast and performances, research and historical accuracy, sets, locations and production design, costumes, Cooper’s impact on the set, stunts, and the use of native languages.

With an hour at its disposal, “Soul” offers a better than average exploration of the production but not one as good as it could be. The program devolves into way too much praise for the film and all involved, so those moments get old. Still, we learn enough about the movie to make “Soul” worth a look.

The disc opens with ads for The Hurricane Heist, 47 Meters Down and Friend Request. No trailer for Hostiles appears here.

Rich and affecting, Hostiles offers a solid drama under the Western banner. A moving character piece, the film develops in a natural way and packs a powerful punch. The Blu-ray brings us largely good picture and audio along with a fairly informative documentary. Hostiles provides a highly satisfying tale.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4615 Stars Number of Votes: 13
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