Director: Scott Cooper.
Black Mass and Crazy Heart director, Scott Cooper writes and directs a western drama that’s based on a manuscript written by Oscar winning screenwriter, Donald E. Stewart. It was a story written back in the 80’s Long before his death in 1999 and by some accounts, was given to Scott after by Stewart’s widow when she found it whilst moving houses.
It’s a fictional yet very authentic western set in 1892 during the American Indian Wars where a war-torn calvary officer is ordered to escort an enemy Cheyenne war chief and his family from Arizona back to their homeland of Montana. He aggressively protests the order but reluctantly agrees as the instruction has come from the president.
There’s great chemistry and tension within the travelling party, with Bale at his usual best, playing Capt. Blocker, forced to protect and escort a sworn enemy allowing us to witness his inner conflict of anger, hatred and honour and respect; and Studi playing Cheif Yellow Hawk, a notorious Cheyenne warrior who has also grown tired of war; each of whom is laden full of their own sins.
The story unfolds as their trek continues across the Wild West and Pike’s character is introduced when the party find her amongst the remains of a tragic and brutal Apache attack and they take her along with them. She quickly becomes the connecting peace (not a typo) between the two sides displaying the decent side of humanity in the film; shame, empathy and forgiveness.
There’s a tremendous supporting cast without the story getting overcrowded. But each supporting character carries a wealth of substance that allows us to explore our protagonist’s emotions and ideals further. It’s this that makes this film more than just a western and it’s about the transition of humility in more than one scenario.
It’s well shot and put together, though lacks the dramatics on purpose, which enriches the film with an authentic realism. It’s more like the Revenant and Bone Tomahawk spectrum of the western genre; not being shy of showing the barbaric brutalities of both sides of the American Indian Wars.
The story is emotionally brutal and challenges the audiences where it tackles some profound heartbreaking issues, many of which make up a great deal of America’s history with it’s establishing society. It’s often macabre, somber and moves slowly with some drawn out scenes that feel longer than they actually are; though it's captivating enough to never feel like it’s dragging.
Max Richter provides a brilliant and suitable score that really embellishes it’s accompanying moments with some of the tracks making my favourites of the year, particularly “Cradle to the Grave” and “Never Goodbye”.
This is a stunning film and a great addition to the genre. Respectful, engaging, challenging and insightful to a spiritual degree.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 0