Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) wears the expression of a bruised Venus throughout Hostiles, Scott Cooper’s perfectly restrained Western. Her on-screen allure is hypnotizing and affecting, especially when she reveals the damage beneath her character’s unblemished skin. She’s a golden-haired movie goddess — standing a foot taller than her co-stars — naturally graced with tragic airs. The camera, moving slowly yet deliberately, sends her back in time to 1892. Violence, as perpetrated by men, converges around her there on the edge of the American frontier.
Rosalie is accompanied by Capt. Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) and his small regiment of blue, unlucky soldiers as they travel north from the Territory of New Mexico. Blocker’s been charged with transporting the recently freed Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), a former nemesis, safely home to Montana. Bale avoids opaqueness in this performance. His face is open and suggestive even when his diction is unintelligible. Cooper attends to the landscape, to trees, mountains, and clouds, the way that a 19th-century painter would. They both convert the scenery into a weather that’s been charged with emotion. These panoramic expanses reinforce the dream-like, episodic quality of the pacing. Each scene fades, in relief, to an ecstatic black. Within this idyllic terrain turned nightmarish, these God-fearing men and women do their stoic best to briefly stave off death.
Opens Friday at the AMC Kabuki.