A few months ago, I went to see Hostiles with my dad. We’re both a fan of westerns, and whenever there is a chance to go and see one, it’s worth taking. When I left the theater, I wanted to write a review, but I never got around to it.
While I don’t plan on writing a review for this film, I do want to point out an issue I had with the film. It still bugs me when I kept thinking back on it, and every time I leave myself wondering what could have been if this issue was addressed in the film.
And I do want to qualify this: I’m not saying this is a fault of the film. This is just purely my subjectivity coming into the foray here (as, of course, all digestion of a film is always going to be subjective).
My issue with Hostiles comes in the lack of showing the perspective of Chief Yellow Hawk, played by Wes Studi. The film, in my eyes, focuses so much of the dread that is experienced by Christian Bale’s Captain Blocker. When his company finally arrive in Montana, and Yellow Hawk is about to pass away, they have a moment of reconciliation.
When I think back to this film. I don’t think that moment of reconciliation hits the way it is intended to, nor does it feel earned or is made aware of in the first place.
As a viewer, we see the internal struggle that Bale faces through this journey. He absolutely despises being ordered to escort Yellow Hawk to his home in Montana. He doesn’t want any part of dealing with any more natives.
However, the film ruins a potentially great opportunity to really make us think about what the film posits: can both sides ever come to move beyond their violent pasts against each other? This is so timely, given the attitude that resides in the air today.
With the film so focused on one side, however, we don’t get a chance to see the other. And that is a big issue that clashes with its intentions for theme. How does Yellow Hawk and his family feel throughout all of this? Has Yellow Hawk come to point where he is ready to forgive? What about his family? I’m not sure that they have reached that point, and it surprised me when Yellow Hawk shows respect for Blocker just before he is about to die.
Without scenes that give them the opportunity to present their side of things, I’m just left with many questions. What is supposed to be a huge moment in the journey for Blocker and Yellow Hawk in the end is ruined.