This Christian Bale-Led Neo-Western Gave Us a Very Different Cowboy Story


Trigger Warning: The following references refer to PTSD, suicide, and violence.

The big picture

  • Hostiles
    challenges traditional Western tropes by portraying characters who deal head-on with mental illness and grief.
  • Sgt. Metz's struggle with PTSD and depression ultimately leads to his tragic end, highlighting the lack of understanding in his time.
  • Captain Blocker and Rosalee find different paths to heal from the pain, showing the evolution of the characters throughout the film.

Gone are the days of unyielding cowboys like John Wayne. In its place has come a more updated and nuanced Western character, emotional and self-reflective. come in Scott Cooperthe neo-western drama Hostiles. If any Western film deals with mental illness and the nature of the consequences of war on men, this is it. In a genre that often focuses little or nothing on mental health in regards to the time period known as “The Wild West,” Scott Cooper delivers a film that tackles it head-on, making the topic a big part of the plot. and its characters.

Hostiles follows the journey of Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) as he reluctantly leads a team of Union soldiers, including a brief appearance by Timothée Chalamet with a French accent, on an escort mission to Montana to get a Cheyenne war chief and his family to safety. Captain Blocker initially does not want to go, as he and Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) are old enemies. Through the various fights, deaths, and challenges the escort group faces, reflections of grief and PTSD are shown through many of the characters, but specifically in Captain Joe, their longtime friend right, Sgt. Thomas Metz (Rory Cochrane) and a rescued woman named Rosalee Quaid (Rosamund Pike).


In 1892, a legendary army captain reluctantly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief and his family through dangerous territory.

Publication date
December 22, 2017

Execution time

Main genre

Cinema of entertainment studies

What is Sgt. Metz emotionally struggling with “Hostiles”?

At the beginning of the film, Sgt. Metz reveals to Blocker that she feels she has no purpose anymore, having been told she has “the melancholy,” which was the way some referred to depression during the time this film takes place. Blocker rejects the claim, something that would later come back to bite him, as he, and most people at the time, have no idea how to handle such a thing. Metz also reveals that they even removed his weapons as a precaution. Blocker chooses Metz to go with him on escort duty as a way to give him renewed purpose, even granting him his weapons. Captain Blocker couldn't have realized at the time that the mission would be what pushes Metz over the edge.

Sgt. Metz makes several indications that he suffers from PTSD due to his time in the various conflicts he was a part of. He has an insensitivity to violence and is depicted discussing graphic details with little emotion. He talks about trouble sleeping due to nightmares and a general feeling of being out of place and lost. She also carries immense guilt about some of the things she had done before she met him. This is most clearly shown when he has an emotional breakdown during a rainstorm and asks for forgiveness from Cape Yellow Falcon and his family. Shortly after this, Metz seizes the opportunity to pursue an escaped prisoner from his group to take his own life. A tragic end for a man seriously misunderstood by his fellow soldiers.

How do Captain Blocker and Rosalee Quaid deal with grief in 'Hostiles'?

The first scene of the film is where Rosalee Quaid's entire family is brutally murdered by hostile Native Americans. When the public catches up with her, it's when Blocker's group finds the scene of the attack perhaps only a few hours later. Rosalee is holding her recently murdered baby, unable to bear the reality that the child is dead, even directly denying it to Blocker and his men. Finally, Rosalee allows the burial of her family and accepts what happened. She is in the most extreme state of shock and grief when she was first introduced. She even recoils in terror at the sight of the Cheyenne natives Blocker is escorting.

With Blocker, the pain and depression you experience is exacerbated and suppressed. These states emerge most prominently when he finds Sgt. Metz after his suicide. Blocker is constantly trying to find justifications for what he did during his military service, never taking a moment to fully understand the emotions surrounding him. All the vague but horrific acts other characters refer to are simply part of Blocker's job, or at least that's what he says. When Blocker loses Sgt. Metz, breaks down as if losing someone close to past conflicts that should be behind him. The consequences of war for many years take another life, opening up all the old wounds that Blocker had kept at bay.

How do “hostiles” represent healing pain?

Both Captain Blocker and Rosalee find varying levels of healing from their pain by the end of the film. Although Blocker is portrayed as a brute and a racist early in the film, he finds a way to see things from a different perspective, slowly treating the Cheyennes in his charge with more humanity. The same goes for Rosalee, where at first she is terrified of the Cheyenne, because of her trauma of losing her family, she is able to separate them from the Native Americans who were hostile. While nothing can excuse Blocker's behavior and the story of him that the film gives us, he gets to a much better place than when he was first introduced, even standing up for the remaining members of the Cheyenne family with his life The final moments of the film show Rosalee with the last surviving child of the Yellow Hawks boss' family in her care, and a changed Joseph Blocker boarding a train at the last minute to stay with them.

Hostiles It may not be the deepest or most action-packed Western out there, but it's worth a watch if for no other reason than to see how a filmmaker handles such a sensitive subject in a setting that wasn't. The very inclusion of a focus on mental health in the film was a risk that paid off as it kept the drama of the events going through scenes that didn't necessarily have any dramatic action at the time . Because mental health is universal, it talks about contemporary issues that real people face, even if it's done in a way that critics might not like.

Hostiles is currently streaming on Starz in the US



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