‘Hostiles’ reviews: Can ‘brutal and beautiful’ Western stage a last-minute Oscars assault?

Can director Scott Cooper get back to the Oscars? The filmmaker himself hasn’t been nominated yet, but his feature debut, “Crazy Heart” (2009), had the impressive distinction of winning a pair of prizes from the motion picture academy, including a long-awaited first Best Actor prize for veteran Jeff Bridges. He followed that with “Out of the Furnace” (2013) and “Black Mass” (2015), and now he hopes to stage a last-minute awards push with “Hostiles,” a gritty Western starring Christian Bale as an Army captain confronting his violent history and his hatred of Native Americans while escorting a former prisoner back to his homeland.

As of this writing the film has a score of 67 on MetaCritic and 65% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes. Those numbers indicate somewhat mixed reviews, but it has inspired strong passion from its fans, who describe it as “the finest example of the [western] genre since ‘Unforgiven.'” It’s “brutal and beautiful,” “elegantly made, with picturesque cinematography.” Bale’s leading performance “ranks among his most impressive,” and he along with co-stars Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi “evoke people from an earlier time without dimming their movie-star charisma.”

The film opened in limited release on December 22 before going wide on January 19, 2018. It’s now hoping to follow an awards path like “American Sniper” (2014) or “The Revenant” (2015) both of which opened in late December with stories of men reckoning with violence and earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor. Do you think “Hostiles” will have a late surge in the awards race? Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more in our forums.

Tomris Laffly (Time Out): “Distinctly American textures are a through line of the career of writer-director Scott Cooper (‘Crazy Heart,’ ‘Out of the Furnace’). It makes sense that he would eventually take a stab at the Western, as he does with ‘Hostiles,’ a harsh, slow-burning frontier epic with muscle and heart … Along with his co-writer Donald Stewart, Cooper finds fresh, undeniable relevance in late-19th-century horrors.”

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly): “Christian Bale is the rare actor who can say more with his eyes than many others can with a dozen for-your-consideration monologues, and his work in Scott Cooper’s brutal and beautiful new Western, ‘Hostiles,’ ranks among his most impressive … Westerns can be a tough nut to crack, but Hostiles may be the finest example of the genre since ‘Unforgiven.'”

David Ehrlich (IndieWire): “‘Hostiles’ finds its footing as it begins to reckon with the moral underpinnings of the Western genre. These movies are defined by the lawless and unforgiving world in which they take place, a fiercely contested stretch of desert where the hardest part of staying alive is living with yourself.”

A.O. Scott (New York Times): “‘Hostiles’ is elegantly made, with picturesque cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi and a muscular, old-style score by Max Richter. Mr. Cooper has regained his confidence after the mess of ‘Black Mass.’ The performances are appropriately stoical, and Mr. Bale, Ms. Pike and Mr. Studi share the ability to evoke people from an earlier time without dimming their movie-star charisma.”

Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives and top name stars can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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