Antonio’s The Rare Review: A Look at Sci-fi/Drama–Hostiles: A Western for the Modern World

For many of us growing up in today’s world, we are children of concrete jungles. We are more familiar with subways, skyscrapers, strip malls, and carefully manicured suburban lawns than forests. Venturing out into true wilderness is risky and incomprehensible by our cushy standards. Yet many years ago, this continent was not quite conquered. The West was once a vast place full of possibility; a place for adventure, for starting over, and for exploration. That is the world showcased in the film Hostiles.

Set in 1892, Hostiles portrays an America that is quite unrecognizable by today’s standards. The country was still recovering in some ways from the Civil War roughly three decades earlier. Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico were still territories. In New Mexico, Hostiles explores relations between Native Americans and the American army. Specifically, some sentiments in the country that have shifted to favor less harsh treatment of the native population. Protagonist Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) has fought many native groups for decades of his career with the army. One of the men he fought is Chief Yellow Hawk, a Cheyenne leader who has been imprisoned with his family at Fort Berringer for seven years. Orders have been given from the president himself to transport Chief Yellow Hawk from New Mexico to Hawk’s homeland, a valley in Montana, to live out his few remaining days. 

Continue reading

Pursued: The First Western Noir

Pursued (1947)
Pursued (1947)

In westerns cowboys are usually depicted as symbols of ultimate freedom. In John Huston’s epitaph to the western, 1961’s The Misfits, Clark Gable’s character explains the life of a cowboy as “Well, you start by going to sleep. You get up when you feel like it. You scratch yourself. You fry yourself some eggs. You see what kind of a day it is; throw stones at a can, whistle.”* And this notion of freedom is part what makes Raoul Walsh’s 1947 film Pursued so interesting. Billed as the first ever western-noir, Pursued takes the vastness of the old west and transforms it into a stifling landscape where you can run but you can’t hide.

Pursued stars Robert Mitchum as Jeb Rand, a man haunted by the scattered memories of a traumatic event. The film opens with Jeb hiding out in the dilapidated remains of a weathered ranch. Then through a series of flashbacks Jeb narrates how fate led him to this point. This narrative framing device is often used in noir* as a way to start off the movie by letting the audience know how it’s going to end: badly. It steeps the rest of the film in an ominous dread because no matter how good things look for our characters we know their ultimate and unfortunate fates.

Pursued's opening scene
Pursued’s opening scene

Continue reading