What would you do if you’d spent your entire adult life hating someone only to find that they are now your roommate? I’ll wait while you think up an answer.
A young husband (Scott Sheppard) is alerted by his wife (Pike) that there is a band of Native Americans approaching their homestead. The husband orders her and their young daughters to flee while he takes up his rifle. Sadly, he is no match for the marauding group, nor are his children. Terrified, the woman seeks refuge in the neighboring woods.
As things in Washington D.C. get progressive, Army Captain Joseph Blocker (Bale) looks forward to retiring soon. He has spent the majority of his military career hunting down (and killing) the Native Americans the government has deemed dangerous. Among them, was Chief Yellow Hawk (Studi), a Cheyenne who, along with his family, was captured by Blocker. Blocker is surprised to find out that the plight of the Native Americans has reached the cosmopolitan east coast of the country and that his last assignment will be to escort the Chief and his family safely to Montana, where he can live out his days as a free man. Blocker refuses, only relenting when he learns that to disobey will cost him his pension. To say he’s not happy is an understatement.
Scott Cooper has always been an entertaining filmmaker. Whether it’s the day to day life of singer Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart” or the bond of the Baze brothers in “Out of the Furnace,” he has a unique way of telling a story that makes the viewer feel they are part of the story. And he also knows how to get great performances out of his actors. Jeff Bridges won an Oscar for “Crazy Heart” and both Bale and Casey Affleck did some of their best work in “Furnace,” which is saying a lot since they both also have Oscars. Bale shines again here, as does the group of soldiers he takes with him on the mission, including Jesse Plemons, Jonathan Majors and newly Academy Award nominated Timothee Chalamet. Add to this group long time performers like Ben Foster and Scott Wilson, as well as the quiet, dignified Studi, and you have a cast that is more than up to the task. This also goes for Ms. Pike, who is found by Blocker’s party and taken into the group, with Blocker going out of his way to ensure her safety. Not for any ulterior motive but out of a sense of chivalry and decency.
Visually the film is beautifully shot, with director Cooper and DP Masanobu Takayanagi (“The Grey,” “Silver Linings Playbook”), along with composer Max Richter (television’s “Black Mirror”) painting portraits of the long ago countryside.