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Film / Hostiles

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Hostiles is a 2017 western film written, directed and co-produced by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Black Mass).

It tells the story of a legendary, hardened army captain named Joe Blocker (Christian Bale) tasked with escorting a dying Cheyenne war chief (Wes Studi) and his family back to their tribal lands in Montana. Along the way, they're joined by Rosalee (Rosamund Pike), a woman who lost her family in a devastating Comanche attack. Blocker is less than enthralled about taking care of a man who was responsible for the deaths of many of his own men in the past, but the harsh circumstances the party faces press them to join forces in order to survive the many challenges along the way.


Tropes in this work include:

  • Adult Fear: Rosalee's family is killed right in front of her, and she's helpless to do anything about it. Her own baby is shot while crying in her arms.
  • All for Nothing: Blocker technically manages to get Yellow Hawk to Montana before he dies, but the rest of the party except for Little Bear is killed, and Rosalee leaves with him for Chicago anyway.
  • Anyone Can Die: By the end of the film, the majority of the cast has died. Private Desjardins is killed fairly early on by the Comanche. Wills kills Lieutenant Kidder in an escape bid. Metz kills himself after he tracked down and killed Wills. Yellow Hawk succumbs to his cancer, shortly thereafter his son Black Hawk and his son's wife Elk Woman are killed. Only Blocker, Rosalee and Little Bear (Yellow Hawk's grandson) are alive by the film's end.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: The film ends with most characters dead, and Rosalee and Little Bear en route to Chicago. Blocker is about to go his own way, but changes his mind at the last minute and joins them.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Inverted; Woodson is wounded, but he's the only one of Blocker's men still alive by the end of the film.
  • Crapsack World: Death, violence and misery are all just parts of life, and few characters get out without a heaping helping of pain and misery.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: If something bad can happen to the party, it will. In the end, almost all of Yellow Hawk's family and all of Blocker's men are gunned down by a territorial landowner just as they get to the tribal lands.
  • Downer Beginning: The tone of the film is set within the first five minutes as Rosalee watches her entire family get cut down by a Comanche attack, leaving her forced to hide in the forest from the attackers while holding on to her dead baby. The mood doesn't rise much higher.
  • Driven to Suicide: Metz kills himself after hunting down and killing Wills.
  • Dwindling Party: Frenchy is killed in a Comanche attack, which injures Woodson and forces him to stay behind to convalesce. Malloy dies during the rescue of the women, and Kidder is murdered by Wills, who is in turn hunted down and killed by Metz who then turns his gun on himself. Most of the rest of the party is killed in the Montana attack, leaving just Blocker, Rosalee and Little Bear.
  • Enemy Mine: Yellow Hawk points out that the Comanche kill indiscriminately, and it'd be wiser for Blocker to unchain him and his family so that they can help fight them. Blocker reluctantly does after witnessing Yellow Hawk's family in combat, after which Yellow Hawk and his family promptly hunt down and kills what's left of the Comanche outfit.
  • Escort Mission: Though the party being escorted is far from helpless.
  • A Father to His Men: Blocker is liked and respected by all his men, and he makes sure to get to know all of them — which cuts him even deeper when he sees them die.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Blocker and Yellow Hawk are bitter enemies in the beginning, but must ally with each other and ultimate come to mutual respect and admiration for each other.
  • Foreshadowing: During a bonding moment, Metz tells Kidder that killing enemies gets easier, but watching fellow allies get cut down never does. Kidder is murdered by Wills during the latter's escape attempt, leading Metz into a blind rage that ends in his catching and killing of Wills, as well as his own suicide.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Nobody really talks about Private Desjardins after his death at the hands of the Comanche. Granted, he didn't interact much with others characters prior to his death, but it's somewhat disheartening that no one really mourns him.
  • Handy Cuffs: Black Hawk kills one of the Comanches by strangling him with his handcuffs.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Played straight with Little Bear, who's a child and the only surviving Cheyenne member of the party.
  • Injun Country: Roselee's family settles in injun country. The main party also journeys through Comanche territory.
  • It Gets Easier: Metz assures Kidder that killing does get easier, though decades of war has clearly left him shell-shocked and miserable.
  • Kill 'Em All: The final battle on the tribal lands, which leaves everybody but three characters dead.
  • Mirror Character: This trope perhaps applies best to the relationship between Blocker and Yellow Hawk. Both men have done horrific things in the name of survival and revenge. They're both commanders who have gotten their hands dirty yet care for their loved ones.
  • Mirroring Factions: The entire film is a realistic portrayal of American-Indian relations at the time, showing both inhumane brutality and warm compassion on both sides of the issue. Wills, who butchered a family in cold blood, believes that he hasn't done anything different from Blocker or Yellow Hawk.
  • Nice Girl: Elk Woman, who goes out of her way to try to help Rosalee while the latter is still reeling from her loss.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Kidder sees Wills apparently suffering in a downpour and tries to ease his restraints a bit. Wills promptly attacks him, shoots him and escapes.
  • Politically Correct History: The film completely avoids the subject of racism toward African-Americans. The film portrays an army detachment with a black corporal whose race is never directly addressed. None of the white soldiers bat an eyelash at serving with or taking orders from a black man. While "buffalo soldiers" did serve in the Indian Wars, they were always in segregated units. The United Stated military did not begin desegregation until 1948. Rosalie also has no reaction to a black man presiding over the funeral of her family.
  • Rasputinian Death: The last of Lounde’s sons to die in the final confrontation gets shot, stabbed, and his neck broken by Blocker.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Blocker loathes Yellow Hawk and his family and almost refuses to escort them, but treats them more or less fairly when they're in his care. He comes to respect them over the rest of the film.
  • Sanity Slippage: Rosalee has one early on, insisting that her children are "sleeping" and hanging on to her dead baby. She gets somewhat better after her family's murderers are killed, though.
  • Shellshocked Veteran: Metz has been fighting for decades and is clearly not well from all the violence he's seen, both from the men he's slaughtered and the friends he's watched die. It gets to him in the end, and he kills himself after hunting down Wills in revenge for Kidder.
  • Smug Snake: Jeremiah Wilks, a journalist who has never gotten his hands dirty and who is rather naive about the state of American-Indian affairs. He can't stop smugly chuckling as Blocker recounts the horrors of war he experienced, until a seething Blocker sets him straight.
  • Tempting Fate: While Rosalee has a gun trained on him, Cyrus Lounde smugly states that he knows she won't fire it.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye:
    • DeJardin, the youngest of the party and the only foreigner (played by Timothée Chalamet during his meteoric rise) was originally billed highly and was expected to play a bigger role. Instead, he's the first to die, gunned down quickly and anticlimactically during the Comanche's attack.
    • Blocker gains two men to assist in escorting Wills, though neither gets any real development and Malloy is unceremoniously killed off during a rescue mission and Thomas is killed in the final shoot out with the landowner.
  • The Western: American soldiers, settlers and Native Americans in conflict.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Wills tricks Kidder into sympathetically loosening his chains during a downpour before murdering him and taking off.