“Hostiles” is a bloody depiction of the American frontier


“HOSTILES”, a bleak and bloody western, opens with a horrific act of violence. In New Mexico in 1892, a homesteader is cutting wood while his wife gives their two daughters a grammar lesson and cradles their newborn baby. Four Comanches ride towards the house, guns and bows drawn, to steal their horses. The wife is able to run to safety, but not before seeing her husband scalped and her children, including her baby, shot to death.

When François Truffaut, a French film director, stated that “there is no such thing as an anti-war film”, he was implying that the tragic realities of conflict are sanitised by the screen. His insight applies equally to the Old West. The trappings of the genre—gunfights, horse riding and damsels in distress—end up indulging the fantasies of young men even when a more nuanced comment is intended. Yet “Hostiles”, Scott Cooper’s new film, has succeeded in robbing the genre of its frivolities. Mr Cooper has form: he previously erased any sense of giddiness from the crime genre in “Out of the…Continue reading

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