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Christian Bale saddles up for earnest 'Hostiles'

In some respects a timely rumination on healing and bridging divisions, "Hostiles" is a sturdy but unspectacular west...

Posted: Dec 22, 2017 5:44 AM
Updated: Dec 22, 2017 5:45 AM

In some respects a timely rumination on healing and bridging divisions, "Hostiles" is a sturdy but unspectacular western, as old adversaries shed animosities through the shared ordeal of a cross-country trek. Christian Bale turns in a solid, stoic performance as a gruff soldier, but writer-director Scott Cooper's earnest film doesn't break much ground.

It's 1892, with the war between the U.S. Army and Native-Americans in its death throes. So Bale's Captain Joseph Blocker is given the reluctant assignment of escorting a Cheyenne war chief, Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), and his family from New Mexico back to their tribal lands in Montana, where the "dying old man" wants to be buried.

The trip, however, turns out to be filled with dangers, beginning with the nihilistic Comanches who have slain the family of Rosalee (Rosamund Pike), who Blocker finds and brings along with them. At a later stop they pick up a court-martialed officer (Ben Foster), which forces Blocker to engage in further self-reflection about not just the men he's lost, but his own transgressions against Yellow Hawk's people.

Writer-director Scott Cooper ("Black Mass") based the concept on a manuscript by the late Donald Stewart, who wrote movies like "The Hunt For Red October" before his death in 1999.

While there's a strong western foundation -- dating back to movies like "The Searchers," on the one hand, and "Little Big Man" on the other -- in examining the mistreatment of Native Americans, "Hostiles" unfolds with a heavy hand. The themes of redemption and forgiveness are both timely and timeless, but the connecting narrative proves a tad episodic, and the erosion of ill feelings and grudging respect, however admirable, doesn't feel entirely earned.

The action, when it comes, is fierce and brutal. Bale (who also starred in the western remake "3:10 to Yuma") is quite good, and the movie also boasts a strong if underused cast in the smaller roles, including "Breaking Bad" alum Jesse Plemons and Timothee Chalamet -- a likely Oscar nominee for "Call Me By Your Name" -- as members of Blocker's unit, and Adam Beach as Yellow Hawk's son.

Given its popularity in days of yore and the current abundance of original content, the western has long seemed ripe for a comeback. There have been some signs of that, recently with Netflix's miniseries "Godless," but it's by no means a full-blown stampede.

"Hostiles" feels like a relatively small, tentative step in that direction -- a movie with a clear fondness for westerns past that's unlikely to do much, ultimately, to brighten their future.

"Hostiles" premieres Dec. 22 in New York and Los Angeles and goes wide on Jan. 19. It's rated R.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320174

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22294271
Hinds20755424
Harrison18450317
Rankin13923282
Jackson13733249
Madison10273225
Lee10063176
Jones8473167
Forrest7837153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636288
Lafayette6314121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606148
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4162136
Union415877
Neshoba4065180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3373111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314571
Adams308486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272374
Marion271280
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George252451
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Holmes190574
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
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Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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