The Back Of Her Eyes

Stars: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Ben Foster, Q’orianka Kilcher, Scott Wilson, Peter Mullan, Adam Beach and Jesse Plemons
Director: Scott Cooper
Scriptwriter: Scott Cooper based on the manuscript by Donald E. Stewart
Composer: Max Richter
Cinematography: Masanobu Takayanagi
Entertainment Studios
Rating: R for violence and themed material
Running Length: 133 minutes

The  Old American West still thrives in film country. “Hostiles“ is a very good movie,  which is directed/written by Scott Cooper, and with soundtrack by Max Richter and cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi. They bring the richness of the land to the audience. This is the West at the end of the 19th century, when Native Americans are relocated to new tribal lands, and outright hatred still exists against them. The white man/Indian wars continue, though quieter and subtle. Thus begins the story of the relocation of an Indian chief, well played by Wes Studi, who is dying and wants to be buried in his territory, which is Montana.

“Hostiles” is a western that gives the audience three stories to follow. One begins when the film starts, the second is with the leader of the Cavalry who will take the Chief to his territory, and the third is that of the Chief named Yellow Hawk.. The film begins with an Indian raid---and you won’t forget this one---involving a white family on their homestead. The ending of the film won’t be forgotten, either.

Almost everyone is killed during the raid, except the wife, Rosamund Pike. She is traumatized and throughout the film, you always see the haunting in the back of her eyes. She is rescued by Bale’s troop, and this is Rosamund Pike’s moment. Why she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar is a good question to ask. As the story continues, the troop takes her to the nearest fort. Christian Bale’s story begins there, as he is assigned the job of taking an aging Indian chief to his tribal grounds to die. The chief has a fatal illness and his family will accompany him on the journey. Bale does not like Indians and is forced into this task, being brutal at first, and then gradually starting to soften. The third story is that of the Chief, who is a white man-hater, but tolerates them to preserve the safety of his family. Adam Beach portrays one of his sons. Rosamund goes with them so she can catch a stagecoach at the next major stop and travel East to be with family. The harshness of the country begins to take its toll as the group encounters hostility, armed conflict and hatred. It is one of those situations where you must band together to survive, and everyone does their part.

There is little dialogue in this film. Each person has a reason to be quiet and stay in their private thoughts. Sometimes it is healthy and sometimes not. Christian Bale is stoic, but his body language tells another story. His eyes say everything. Rosamund Pike, on the surface, seems to accept what happened, but you can tell she seethes inside. Wes Studi as the Chief, shows his caring side with his family, and his time in this era is over. What will happen to his family?

“Hostiles” surprised me in that I expected long dialogues explaining this or that side of a situation and it didn’t happen. The world is changing, progress moves everyone forward, and either adapt or stand by the wayside. You see this happen with Bale’s attitude and demeanor toward the Chief, and with Bale’s men, who either follow this change or not. Body language says as much as dialogue in the film. “Hostiles” is not your usual gunslinger/wagon train/outlaw Western. It is about change, which includes grief,  and what adapting means to one’s moral compass. Fall in line, or be left behind. Your choice.

Copyright 2018 Marie Asner