First Hit: Although it is long and at times languid, it tells a wonderful story of coming to grips with our internal and external enemies.
I like films that have the main characters learn from introspection and if done well, they bring a smile to my face.
The film’s setup is watching the cruelty of a family being slaughtered by a small band of renegade Comanche Indians. They come to steal their horses, will kill everyone, and set fire to their home. The wife/mother finds a way to hide and although her husband and three children are killed, she survives.
Then we switch to lifelong (since age 14) Indian fighter Captain Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) of the U.S. Calvary, as he captures and brings in what he hopes to be the last of the Apache Indians that have been fighting settlers.
His hatred for the Indians that have scalped and killed settlers is ever present in his face and manner. When summoned to Colonel Abraham Biggs office, we learn the depth of his hatred. The cause for his outburst is that he’s been assigned, under the orders of the President of the United States, to take his sworn enemy Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), who is dying, to the Chief's home in Montana to die peacefully.
During this mission, he comes across Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) the lone survivor of the first scene’s massacre. He takes her with him on the mission and together they find it in their hearts to both suffer, learn, and forgive.
The film just takes a while to get there but in the end I thought it was worth it. The hints of Blocker's deeper compassion are displayed through the kind gestures Blocker he shows his men and Quaid.
The beautiful scenery in the film improved and made the journey of watching much better. The way Blocker’s past kept arriving to him as a reminder of his ways while watching Quaid grow from her terrible ordeal, was exquisite. The scene when Blocker speaks with Corporal Henry Woodsen (Jonathan Majors) while they said goodbye was deeply touching of the deep respect and love they had for each other. The caring Blocker had for Master Sergeant Thomas Metz (Rory Cochrane) was divine. When Metz said that he was tired and done with this path, instead of dismissing this, Blocker embraced the place from which Metz said it. As Quaid supported the Indian women and men during the journey, the audience felt her movement towards forgiveness.
These connections made this film work. However, it does take a while to get there, so if you see this film, sit back, relax and let the film speak to you internally.
Bale was clearly wonderful in this role. His ability to show compassion and caring for another human being as well as his hatred was amazing. His physical expressions rarely changed much, it all came from his eyes. Pike was sublime. She showed a depth of angst that is rarely expressed on screen, and her movement towards forgiveness was perfect. Cochrane was great. I loved his ability to make his role real. Majors showed great depth of character in a role where he gets to stand for something and honor another as well. Studi was perfect and the Chief who kept his honor while making his way towards death. Scott Cooper wrote the script and directed this film. I saw both his reasoning for making it 2 hours and 14 minutes long and also saw where there could have been cuts which would have made it crisper.
Overall: After letting the film settle in, I found that I enjoyed the journey.