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Film & TV

Hostiles (2017) – A Haunting Gothic Western Elegy

In what is a haunting Gothic Western tale set in 1892, legendary Army Capt. Joseph Blocker reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family back to their tribal land. Embarking on a harrowing and perilous journey from Fort Berringer, N.M., to the grasslands of Montana, they soon encounter a young widow whose family was killed on the plains. The travelers must now band together to survive a punishing landscape that’s crawling with hostile Comanches and vicious outliers.

Haunting Gothic WesternNauseated with a baleful anger, Joseph’s unwelcome final assignment in the feral American landscape is further complicated, when the widowed settler, Rosalie Quaid, is taken in by the band of soldiers, as aggressive packs of marauding Comanches who are still on the warpath, are thirsty for blood. In a territory crawling with hostiles, can the seasoned Captain do his duty one last time? 

Though he plot of the film brings together two fictional characters – embittered U.S. Army Captain Joe Blocker (Christian Bale) and the dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) who were fierce foes at Wounded Knee, the massacre that took place December 1890. Awareness of this historic episode and events leading up to it are pivotal in understanding the complex evolution of the characters’ relationship.

Haunting Gothic WesternThe Massacre at Wounded Knee was triggered by a series of treaty violations against the Lakota Sioux, and their practice of the forbidden Ghost Dance. The U.S. Army perceived this ritual as a frightening act of aggression and deployed thousands of troops to control the situation. Tensions mounted over the course of several weeks, culminating in a massacre that left approximately 300 dead Natives – mostly women and children.

For many Natives, the bloodshed signaled the consequences of resisting assimilation.

The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2017, and had a limited release in the United States by Entertainment Studios starting December 22, 2017, before going wide on January 26, 2018. It received generally positive reviews from critics and grossed $39 million worldwide.

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