JANUARY 5, 2018 -- Director Scott Cooper takes his experiences with "Black Mass" and "Out of the Furnace" into the old west for a film loaded with authentic characters all unknowingly seeking redemption. You will probably not find a western filled with so many nuanced chracters since Clint Eatswood's 1992 classic "Unforgiven".


You can tell Cooper was influenced by Eastwood's work because he borrows one of the more memorable lines from it. Of course, Christian Bale's Captain Blocker character doesn't deliver it quite the same as Eastwood's William Muny character did, but you will definitely notice it (if you're a true Western buff). Scott also borrows heavily from Kristian Levring's 2014 oater "The Salvation" with Mads Mikkelsen and Sergio Leone's 1968 classic "Once Upon a Time in the West" - opening the film with a family slaughter.


Rosamund Pike stars as Rosalie Quaid who is the only survivor of a homestead raid by local Comanche. She seems broken when she is discovered by Captain Blocker while on an assignment to return a former nemesis, Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) to his native cerimonial grounds to die. Blocker hates Yellow Hawk as he recalls the masacres led by the chieftain; but orders are orders and he must fulfill his dudty if he is to get one dime of his retirement pension.

Blockers small detail are barely on the side of righteousness as most have been involved in horrendous acts themselves, finding Quaid alone with her dead family is a stark reminder of the environment they live.


However, distrust of their native wards subsides when they realize they are outnumbered by the Comanche as well as the looting white trappers and white land barons running wild in the high plains. Meanwhile, Ms Quaid overcomes her grief soon enough to realize that she is on her own now. There is a moment Cooper looked like he was going to delve into the prairie madness as Tommy Lee Jones "The Homesman" did. Instead he holds true with the story of redemption.


Bail is outstanding as the officer with a dirty past. He has the same qualities as William Muny with the only difference being that he is a soldier and not an outlaw. The examination of the thin line that separates criminal from justified is as well represented as it was in "Unforgiven". Pike also does an exceptional job as the victimized woman barely clinging on to her sanity, much like Claudia Cardinale's Jill McBain character from "Once Upon A Time In The West". Pike's character is made even more tragic however.


Studi's performance is that of quiet dignity as the dying chief accompanied by his family. If there was one flawed character it was by Timothee Chalamet as a French-born soldier who is pretty much like a deer in headlights. However Cooper does a great job of depicting what the actual makeup of a western calvary unit would look like. Jonathan Majors play the black corporal Woodsen who is pretty much Captain Blockers right hand man. I'm referring to Bose Ikard from the cattledrives along the Goodnight-Loving trail.


Though the film runs a fairly lengthy 2 hours 13 minutes, Cooper keeps it well paced with brief gun battles and a stark depiction of the old west. It's nice to see Hollywood trusting historical depictions instead of sensationalism.


"Hostiles" is a fine western befitting the tradition of westerns but with a grittier, more authentic feel. The story is first rate; the moral is classic.   -- GRADE A- --   GEOFF BURTON