It’s 1892, and Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) witnesses her husband, two daughters and baby killed as she flees from the attacking Camaches. Over in New Mexico, Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) catches an Indian family fleeing and brings them back to the fort. There, the Colonel has a new set of orders for Blocker, to escort Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), a Cheyenne war chief, and his family back to his land where he can die in peace. Blocker has a history with Yellow Hawk, both having killed each others men, and refuses, but the Colonel convinces him otherwise, pointing out the order was from the President and he’d be court-martialed if he refused. So Blocker assembles a team — his longtime friend, Master Sergeant Metz (Rory Cochrane), Buffalo Soldier Corporal Woodson (Jonathan Majors), a new West Point grad, Lieutenant Kidder (Jesse Plemmons) and a young French Private, DeJardin (Timothée Chalamet.) Not long into their journey they discover the charred remains of the Quaid house, and upon investigating, see Rosalie inside tending for her dead kids. The men bring her up to their clifftop camp and help her bury her kids. Yellow Hawk, handcuffed, asks Blocker to free him so he can help fight the crazy Camaches, but Blocker doesn’t trust him. The next day as they begin their journey, they’re ambushed by the Camache. Yellow Hawk jumps off a horse and manages to take out a couple of guys, as Blocker and his men handle most of the others, except Woodson who was shot, and poor Frenchie who was killed. Because of his help, Blocker frees Yellow Hawk from chains, and the next day on their journey the group discovers the two remaining Camaches dead, hanging from a tree. Eventually they make it to a fort in Colorado so Woodson can be tended to and Rosalie can be dropped off. They pick up a couple of new guys, Corporal Tommy Thomas (Paul Anderson) and Sergeant Malloy (Ryan Bingham), who are there to help Blocker escort murderer Sgt. Charles Wills (Ben Foster) to his hanging. Also, Rosalie changes her mind about staying, and wants to go with Blocker, whom she is getting closer with. Will they be able to complete their missions, or will more things go wrong?
Hostiles is a classic Western that feels like two tales in one; the first with the Camaches and the second with Wills. Tying them together is the brutality that the characters have witnessed before the story began and as their journey goes. And that violence is brutal, thankfully never glorified, and Despite the uncomplicated goals (and limited obstacles) the movie is a sprawling two hours and fifteen minutes, with lots of conversations playing out far too long as many of the characters are detached and have little room to grow. And while the story plays out pretty much how’d you guess it would from the beginning, it’s still a decent ride as the talented cast that populates the screen keep your attention. Christian Bale is a strong lead and given the most to work with, while much of the supporting cast, Rosamund Pike included, make due with the scraps they were given, which is unfortunate because some of the characters like Kidder and DeJardin appear to be more interesting than the dead bodies they wind up being. Never mind that the Native American characters are pretty much ignored from a storytelling perspective, until the very end when it feels a td too little too late. Despite all of this, the movie is worthy to check out if you’re interested or are a fan of Westerns.