This movie is set in 1892. A well known Army Captain Capt. Joseph J. Blocker (played by the talented Christian Bale) unwillingly agrees to escort a Cheyenne chief (along with his family) through unsafe territory. What a great cast: Scott Shepherd as Wesley Quaid, Rosamund Pike as Rosalee Quaid, Wes Studi as Chief Yellow Hawk, Ava Cooper as Lucy Quaid, Stella Cooper as Sylvie Quaid, David Midthunder as Buffalo Man, Gray Wolf Herrera as Apache Man (as Graywolf Herrera), Rory Cochrane as Master Sgt. Thomas Metz, Jonathan Majors as Corp. Henry Woodson, John Benjamin Hickey as Capt. Royce Tolan, Stafford Douglas as Corp. Molinor, Stephen Lang as Col. Abraham Biggs, Bill Camp as Jeremiah Wilks and the reliable Jesse Plemons as Lt. Rudy Kidder.
The movie starts off with a quote by D H Lawrence. In a country ranch we see a man sawing a log. A woman (Rosalee Quaid played brilliantly by the talented and beautiful Rosamund Pike) teaches her daughters english. It is an isolated house in the middle of no where. It's the calm before the storm, you can feel it. This atmosphere was expertly created by the director.
Suddenly, american indians start firing shots at the house. The owner shoots back and tells his wife and kids to escape through the back door. It appears that they have been attacked before. The owner gets killed. They fire shots in the direction of the woman and her daughters get killed. It's a brutal scene and an impactful way to begin a movie.
Rosalee is chased and she hides. She grabs on to her baby but it is injured badly and passes away. It is a very sad moment and you feel for Rosalee. She shows a strength and a courage that is very admirable. The american indians burn the house down.
In the next scene we see Capt. Joseph J. Blocker talking to some soldiers. The other soldiers drag around an apache prisoner by horse. One soldier says "That will be the last of them...". Another stressed soldier says "No... they just keep coming".
Two soldiers chat. Joseph and an older guy Master Sgt. Thomas Metz (played brilliantly by Rory Cochrane). Thomas wants to retire. He is depressed. Great dialogue here and great acting by Rory Cochrane. This movie has a slow pace that lets you soak up the atmosphere. Thomas says to Joseph "You remember when I saw the enemy put a spear in your belly... you looked so young". They chat about their past adventures. You realise that it must have been very hostile land and they must have had very dangerous experiences through out their career.
Joseph then has a meeting with the general and another Sargeant. "What do I do with those rechid savages" says the Sargeant. He says to Joseph "Is it true you took more scalps than Sitting Bull". Joseph is unimpressed with them. The general wants to transport a well known american indian chief back to his native territory. Joseph responds forcefully "To tell you the truth I dont give a damn". This is Christian Bale at his best and most intense.
He doesn't want to take the project on. Joseph says "You have never seen the face of war" looking intimidatingly at the Sargeant. He adds "I gotta war bag of reasons to hate them". But the general says with his own level of intimidation "This will be done by you". Intense scenes like this make you realise how much agony this territory has done to them. Great acting by Bale. His best and most memorable dialogue is achieved during this scene.
Joseph sees the chief in jail. He then walks into a desert plain, lays down his gun down in the bush and screams out loud. He releases a lot of tension in this scene. Joseph organises his troops for the voyage. The general tells Joseph "You were a good soldier". He replies "I still am". Another telling scene. Joseph gets together a group of soldiers to escort the chief to his homeland.
After trekking for a while the group stop. Joseph talks to the Chief in his language. He says something to intimidate him. The chief says in his own language "hes not afraid of death".
They sleep in a camp at night. There are a lot of awkward silences in this movie. It increases the tension. There is a great eery soundtrack too. The soldiers come across the burned house. Joseph examines an arrow and says it was the Comanche. Inside the house is the woman that escaped that attack, Rosalee. She is there with her deceased baby and daughters. It is a depressing sight to see. Her daughters are wrapped up on the floor and she clings to her baby (also deceased).
Joseph says he'll keep her safe and that he's not gonna hurt them. She trusts him. Great acting by Rosamund Pike as Rosalee. The whole scene makes you feel uneasy because of all she's gone through. She says she will bury her family. She's a tough woman.
She shouts out loud after using the shovel to dig the grave. This scene shows the brutality of the frontier. "Promise me when I die, I'll be buried in this field" she says to Joseph. At night camp, the american indians give the woman a gift (knitted blankets), she accepts. It's a beautiful scene.
Joseph plans on taking her to the next outpost. Yellow Hawk (the Chief) says the comanche will strike no matter what. They do not discriminate he says. The beautiful landscapes of the frontier are memorable in this movie. Vast planes of grass and baron land with rocky mountains.
There is a battle, it's exhilerating. The Comanche strike. Bow and arrows and gunfire. Fast action. After the fight is over Rosalee shoots at an already dead comanche. It's her way of letting of steam and anger. The rocky planes look awesome in the wide screen shot. "We must stand as one or else they will kill us" says Yellow Hawk. "Unchain them" Joseph says.
"This movie very much feels like a historical piece. The landscapes, the clothing of the actors, it all feels very authentic. This movie must have used old accounts of how life used to be. Going on horseback through these planes, crossing rivers, all of these scenes were magestic and beautiful"
You realise that Bale has done it again. He brings an intensity and authenticity to this role. But he didn't alter his physical appearance too much as he has done so in the past. A soldier says to Joseph "I've never killed a man before". The older soldier says "What you don't get used to is losing men. I've lost a lot of men". Conversations like this are quite deep. I also like the editing in this film, transparent transitions into the next scenes.
They walk by a man that was earlier hung on a tree branch. They arrive at Fort Winslow. An established town. They have dinner. The lady of the house says that american indians are dispossed and that they were here first. The husband who is a general says to be quiet. This general wants Joseph to escort one of his prisoners to another close by destination.
A soldier called Henry (played well by Jonathan Majors) is in hospital, injured from the previous attack. Joseph asks him how he's holding up "Good, as long as you don't breath". Joseph jokes "well then dont breath". Joseph tells him truthfully "You never let me down Henry... without you I would have met my fate a long time ago". Henry replies "It was my pleasure serving under you". I loved this scene. It shows that amongst all this hate and war there was comradery.
Rosalee wants to ride with Joseph. It's a nice scene because Joseph wholeheartedly agrees "Prepare a horse for the lady". Both of them bond in that moment. They leave the town and ride through some woods. Once again beautiful landscapes.
Joseph talks to Capt. Royce Tolan (played brilliantly by John Benjamin Hickey) and they recount a close call they had. Royce says "Seeing all the things you've seen... makes you feel inhuman". This is a heavy scene. At night camp a soldier plays a ukalele, it's a beautiful scene. Rosalee does her washing with the american indian girls. Some men come and abduct the women. They take them back to their camp.
Joseph's soldiers then rade the tents of those men to get the women back. You don't see the action, you just see and hear gun fire inside the tents. Great editing, you try and see from a distance what's going on. What an innovative scene. Joseph realises that Royce has betrayed them. Joseph suspects Royce told those men to raid their camp. The crew create another night camp. He ties Royce up as a prisoner outside. Rosalee wants Joseph in her tent. It's a touching scene.
Thomas wants to quit the voyage and he tells Joseph. He gives a gift of tobacco to the chief. He asks the chief to forgive him. This is an emotional scene. Royce who is now prisoner escapes after faking that he was sick. It's raining. Royce kills a soldier, a young guy. Thomas goes after Royce, it looks like it will be his last mission.
In the morning the group ride on. They find Thomas slumped dead next to a tree. They also find Royce dead close by. One of the soldiers says to Joseph "He got him sir... he got him good". Joseph cries at seeing Thomas dead against a tree. Joseph loved him, he loved his loyalty perhaps. They setup another night camp. Rosalee is in the tent with Joseph again. She hugs him and caresses him. Once again, it's a beautiful scene.
The chief is very sick and coughing. Joseph says to the chief "I have lost friends and so have you". Joseph shakes hands with the chief. We see them riding while the sun sets on a plane, beautiful backdrop. These horseback scenes through out the whole film are very memorable. Great music here. The chief passes on and they cremate him on an elevated wooden deck.
They now see other men arriving by horseback. Joseph gets his paperwork ready. But they refuse. The men want them off their land. There is a lot of suspense. A big gun battle begins. Fast paced action. Both parties lose men. Joseph shoots the last man who is running away. He walks right up to him and finishes him off, its quite savage. Joseph I guess was a product of his environment.
Next we see a train arrive. Joseph is in fine clothing. Joseph gives the little american indian kid (that was part of the group) his bible. Rosalee says to Joseph "Whatever may come, I want the best for you". Joseph gets on the train. It's a slow visual scene but very memorable. He is off to another stage in his life. The train leaving is a symbol of that. It's a positive way to end the film.
"I've enjoyed all of Christian Bale's performances in the past. He brings an intensity and an authenticity to his role as Joseph, an american soldier in 1892"He is a broken man that only knows pain and destruction. Yet his touching scenes with Rosalee and the chief are very special. It proves that he is human after all.
"Rosamund Pike is one of my favourite actresses, she brings a lot of depth to all her characters. But it is her strength that you see more evidently in this role. Great acting"Bale has had memorable roles with his technique of body transformation. But I also like his performances when his body is normal and he uses a more pure acting technique. He is a broken man in this movie and he plays it to perfection.
"Wes Studi played the Chief and he is an experienced actor. He has little dialogue but a tremendous presence and spirituality. Rory Cochrane as an experienced officer also excelled"Enjoy the captivating 2hrs 14min.