Sunday, February 18, 2018


A Western That Makes You Love And Hate

3.75 stars

Mini Review:

An Army Captain who captured the 'Redskin' killer of many of his mates is now ordered to escort the killer across hostile terrain from New Mexico to Montana. He not only has to fight his hatred for the Native American chief who is now old and suffering from Cancer, but do his duty or his pension will be revoked. The film is a brilliant travelogue - about journeys inside your self and physically, and wonderfully shot. And Christian Bale is not just Batman, he can act!

Main Review:

Captain Joseph Blocker does not speak much, but his face speaks volumes. If it weren't for Christian Bale, this film would have not been the same. He is unapologetic about the violence that he has lived, and his inspiration is Julius Caesar. His troops respect him. When the mission is given to him he does not have a choice. he will have to escort a hated man and his family to the Indian Reservation in Montana. 

There is betrayal and friendship, and murders that are vile and from the very beginning you know this film is not going to be ordinary. The Commanche are horrendous scalp hunters and you begin to understand why the White conquerors called them 'savages'. 

Rosamund Pike is beautiful and gives a powerful performance as a grieving mother and a new widow.  

Captain tries to offload her at the nearest Army cantonment, but there's no stagecoach that will take her to Chicago and she may have to wait indefinitely. So when she gets ready to travel the next morning with Captain and his burden along with one more prisoner, he calmly asks for another horse to be included, without saying too much to the widow. His manners and gentlemanly conduct is tested when he cannot abandon her no matter how insufferable she gets a couple of times.

The new prisoner turns out to be another emotional burden. He has fought alongside the Captain and is hoping to be treated better. The weather has turned hostile now, and the Captain realises that the prisoner is no longer a soldier but a murderer. But when an animal is left out in the cold and the rain, he will turn on you. The episode is predictable and yes, you cannot but avert your eyes.

The travelers reach Montana, and you know there has been much loss. The views of sunset are so incredible you want to go back and explore the Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness and the Grand Teton National Park all over again to experience nature at its best.

My one grouse with the film is the cardboard cutout treatment given to the Native Americans. The proud but dying chief, the philosophy he shares, his family, their fears and their loyalty are all so stereotypical , the roles write themselves.

The film makes you question your own values. Enmity that festers inside heads, death and of course the meaning of home. Homecoming is a somber reality to the chief and you begin to wonder if there is a place one can call home as well. 

P.S. That said, it was amusing to watch the quiet decision of the hero to stay with the girl and the child because in my head i was wondering how a Hindi film would have played it: train catches speed (even in those times), hero makes a dash for it, heroine sitting inside eyes closed, child happy to watch hero run towards train, hero jumps on to the train, hero comes inside, child nudges the heroine, who is crying (make-up intact), they hug (or kiss) and the gawdawful voice of Sukhvinder Singh begins to sing a version of 'mera piya ghar aaya'... 

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