South Asian Insider
The reason Christian Bale is the greatest Hollywood actor of his generation
Christian Bale delivers one of the most understated performances of his storied career in Scott Cooper’s uncompromisingly grim Western.
Director - Scott Cooper
Cast - Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Ben Foster, Jesse Plemons, Timothee Chalamet
Rating - 4/5
There is a deep melancholy that runs through Hostiles, and essentially every film by Scott Cooper, that defies explanation. The filmmaker only seems to make the sort of movies industry ‘experts’ insist are becoming less viable by the year. His latest is not only uncommonly grim for a mainstream picture starring a mainstream movie star, but it is also a Western, a genre that has famously fallen from the audience’s good graces, unless, of course, Quentin Tarantino or the Coen Brothers are somehow involved.
Barely five minutes go by before Hostiles announces, with gut-wrenching ferocity, what kind of film it is going to be - massive both thematically and visually, and uncompromisingly brutal in its outlook. We see the family of Wesley Quaid getting attacked by native Americans on horseback. They charge with arrows drawn, unleashing war cries that sear through the quiet. Quaid commands his wife to run, and to take their three children - one of whom is an infant - away from the onslaught. She doesn’t get far. Her husband is shot and scalped within her earshot, as are her two young daughters. She barely manages to escape with her baby.
The story of Rosalie Quaid, played by Rosamund Pike, is one of the many threads Cooper weaves within Hostiles. Through the course of its languid two odd hours, several characters enter the picture - all of whom are either literally or metaphorically headed towards the final destination - and even more exit it.
The one constant whose duty it is to shepherd these souls - an ageing tribal chief to his village, a disgraced soldier to the gallows, and Rosalie Quaid to safety - is Captain Joseph Blocker, played by Christian Bale. But he has his own journey to complete - one that until recently didn’t involve the responsibility of escorting men and women.
Hostiles is Bale’s second film with Cooper. I wrote about their previous movie, Out of the Furnace, recently. Looking closely, it would appear that both movies are essentially about the same themes - broken characters trudging through life, wordlessly accepting whatever is thrown at them, and fighting back when it becomes impossible to take more abuse. Underneath their rugged exterior, they’re both morality tales about men having to compromise on their beliefs.
And both films are anchored by two of the finest, unusually understated Christian Bale performances you’re likely to see. Famously, he’s the sort of actor whose method invariably overshadows every conversation about him. But range is what he has in droves. There is little that remains to be said about Bale’s talents that hasn’t already been said, numerous times. I called him the greatest Hollywood actor of his generation in that Out of the Furnace piece, because unlike several of his contemporaries, he knows that the power of silence is often more resilient than scene-stealing bravura.
Notice how he twitches his mouth in Hostiles - hidden beneath a moustache that could inspire Hercule Poirot to do better - and his eyebrows. Notice the jitters in his eyes. Blocker isn’t a man fully in control, even though Bale is.
This is a performance that will likely be forgotten amid the dozens of louder ones he’s delivered, as will this movie, but that is perhaps what makes Scott Cooper such a rarity.Each of his films, with the exception of his first, Crazy Heart, has brought to the American mainstream stories about people living off the beaten track. These are characters who do not operate by the law - mostly in the symbolic sense, but in the case of Johnny Depp’s Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, also quite literally. They’re working class, everyday folk, the sort of people actual movie characters would order coffee from or pay to have their cars washed by.
Despite what it thinks about the world - there are several not-so-subtle comments made about Donald Trump’s Red State America - Hostiles is a rewarding movie that deserves to be given a shot. It might not be as great as Bale’s other Western, 3:10 to Yuma, but boy does it come close.
US opens embassy in Jerusalem as clashes between Israel police and Palestinians leave 37 dead
The US on Monday opened its embassy in Jerusalem, a city at the epicenter of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, even as protests eru...
First Lady Melania Trump undergoes ‘successful’ procedure on kidney condition
First lady Melania Trump underwent a “successful” procedure Monday to treat a benign kidney condition and was expected to remain h...
From a rice mill clerk to south’s first BJP CM, a look back at Yeddyurappa’s political journey
From serving as secretary to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to becoming the first BJP chief minister in the south and later...
DU admissions 2018 commence today: Online application, courses offered, fees, exam date, expected cut-off
DU admission 2018: Delhi University (DU) will begin online registration to its undergraduate programmes on May 15, that is, tomorr...
J&K govt removes officer who issued order for Kashmiri Pandits visiting Kheer Bhawani temple
Days after Deputy Commissioner (Relief), Jammu, asked Kashmiri Pandits intending to visit temples in the Valley on Kheer Bhawani f...
Maharashtra govt to rope in private players for teleradiology
Facing a shortage of radiologists, the Maharashtra government plans to set up teleradiology centres in rural and tribal areas to d...
PNB-Modi chargesheet: Named in Nirav Modi case, Allahabad Bank CEO, two PNB directors face axe
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probing the alleged Rs 13,400-crore fraud involving diamantaires Nirav Modi and his uncl...
Vijay Mallya loses $1.55 billion assets case in UK court
Embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, undergoing an extradition trial in a UK court over fraud and money laundering charges by Ind...
Tourist death in J&K: Take relook at amnesty to stone pelters, JCCI president appeals to Centre
The death of a tourist from Chennai in attack by stone pelters in Kashmir evoked widespread criticism in Jammu, with ruling Bharat...
Google I/O 2018 keynote LIVE UPDATES: Google Assistant to get six new voices, new features
Google I/O 2018 opens today on May 8 with a live keynote address by Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The annual developer conference is t...
© All rights Reserved. The south Asian, Published Weekly from New york.