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Journey through 'Hostiles'

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Christian Bale interrogates Ben Foster in the new movie “Hostiles.”

Western movies are near and dear to my heart. I grew up watching them with my dad and the entire Western genre in books, movies and TV shows has been a consistent love of mine throughout the years.

So, it will be a lot of fun to start this series with a preview of the new Western film, “Hostiles.” A couple times per month, I’m going to write stories for our new Entertainment page that dives into the real-life historical events portrayed in the films — when it applies — and relay some fun behind-the-scenes stories from the production.

Each movie will be released in our local theater, Westwood Cinema, and the showtimes for the weekend will be posted here with the story.

And now, without further ado, let’s talk about “Hostiles.”


First, it’s not based on real events, though it certainly looks like it could be. It feels as authentic as anything we’ve seen in the Western genre in recent years.

It’s the story of a cavalry captain who has fought Native Americans his entire career and then must escort a dying Cheyenne chief from New Mexico to Montana.

Along the way, the captain and his handpicked group of men come across a mother whose family has been killed by a Comanche war party.

Soon enough, the cavalrymen and the Cheyenne family in their care must form an uneasy bond to fight the Comanche war party. In addition, the group collides with a renegade U.S. soldier and his group of dirty fur trappers.

The title is multi-layered. Everyone, with the possible exception of the mother, is a hostile. The movie promises plenty of tension and action as the group of “heroes” navigates a thousand miles of “hostile” country between New Mexico and Montana.

Christian Bale appears to be at his darkly brooding best in his role as cavalry captain Joseph Blocker. His group of soldiers features the familiar faces of Jesse Plemons and Rory Coltrane. Plemons is a Dallas native who achieved fame as Landry on the TV show, “Friday Night Lights” and has continued to rise through major Hollywood movies and edgy shows like “Fargo.”

Coltrane is an actor who really evolved over the years. Looking at him now, you might not recognize him as the long-haired stoner in the Austin-based cult classic, “Dazed and Confused.”

Rosamund Pike plays the mother of the slain family and viewers will probably remember her from “Jack Reacher” and “Gone Girl.”

Wes Studi is another actor who should be familiar. His career spans nearly 30 years and started with a bang. He played the memorable Pawnee warrior with the scary face paint and mohawk in “Dances With Wolves” and the villainous Magua two years later in “Last of the Mohicans.”

In this film, he plays Cheyenne chief Yellow Hawk. Though the attitudes and actions of many characters in the film certainly occurred in real life, Yellow Hawk is the only “true” portion of the story.

The Cheyenne chief was a real person, but he did not embark on a thousand-mile journey with the U.S. cavalry to return to his tribal lands before he passed away.

The film is based on a manuscript written by Donald E. Stewart. Most viewers will probably not know Stewart’s name, but they will certainly know a trio of movies he wrote in the 1990s: “The Hunt for Red October,” “Clear and Present Danger,” and “Patriot Games.”

Stewart passed away in 1999, before he tried to sell the script, and director Scott Cooper reworked it for this film. Cooper had a meteoric rise as the director of “Crazy Heart” with Jeff Bridges and then “Out of the Furnace” and “Black Mass.”

For this film, he and the cast and crew convened on the 21,000-acre Ghost Ranch in New Mexico to shoot much of the movie. The ranch has been the hot spot in recent years for any film or TV show that needs a Western feel.

To show the evolution of the trek, the production worked its way up the southern end of the Rocky Mountains to give the impression the characters were moving north to Montana.

It promises to be a story of uneasy alliances, a tale of bitter enemies who must overcome their hatred of each other to survive a perilous journey.

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