Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper’s finely crafted Western doesn’t flinch from portraying the horrors inflicted during a violent era of American history with its tale of an embittered US Cavalry officer tasked with escorting a dying Cheyenne war chief back to his tribal lands.
New Mexico, 1892. Flinty-eyed Captain Blocker (Christian Bale) has seen more than his fair share of violence and bloodletting on the frontier, but when he is forced to accept a mission to escort Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) back to his native Montana it’s a particularly bitter pill to swallow. The chief has been his mortal enemy for years. Harbouring a deep hatred towards those now placed in his care, Blocker and his charges set out through dangerous territory, much of it inhabited by hostile tribes, on a journey whose simmering group dynamic is complicated further when the ragged party is joined by a stricken widow (Rosamund Pike) who has just seen her family massacred in a raid.
With a gritty integrity and plaintive poetry to it, this tough but tender tale of blood and dust is one of the most accomplished Westerns of recent times. Relentlessly cutting into the complex, troubled relationship between those who lived on the land for centuries and the white intruder, this raw and compelling tale ultimately poses the question: is reconciliation possible?