Hostiles ★★★

This on-the-trail Western, set on the tail end of the wars between the Native Americans and the European Americans, is difficult to recommend.  Vacillating between stark violence and somber contemplation, Hostiles might just be the most exhausting 2+ hours I've spent in the cinema in recent memory.  And there are moments when the performances of Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike clearly needed to be reigned in.  But the sniffier reviews of this film seem to dismiss it as little more than a narrative of attempted redemption that is categorically unearned according to contemporary cultural ideology.  Perhaps it is, but I believe writer/director Scott Cooper is exploring something more specific and worthy of consideration: hatred as a burden, a burden that may or may not irrevocably damage its bearer, and a burden that can eventually become too much to bear.  And in that exploration lies the (perhaps uncomfortable) notion that the road to “redemption” might often be that base, that simple.

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