Hostiles review: Christian Bale's on blistering form in western
Hostiles (Cert 15, 133 mins)
Retribution and regret are saddle-sore travelling companions in writer-director Scott Cooper's gritty western, set during the final years of the bloodthirsty war between the United States Army and Native Americans.
Adapted from a manuscript by screenwriter Donald E Stewart, Hostiles cocks its pistol towards political correctness by apportioning blame for the slaughter to both sides of the conflict.
Cooper's script isn't inclined to rigorously debate moral ambiguities and characters sometimes enforce racial and tribal stereotypes for the sake of dramatic expediency.
However, boundaries between conventional heroes and villains are intriguingly blurred, and justice is seldom granted to battle-scarred characters as they endure "the Lord's rough ways".
Christian Bale delivers a blistering performance as a world-weary army captain Captain Joseph J Blocker, whose humanity is revitalised by an unexpected encounter with the sole survivor of a Comanche attack.
Played to the emotionally raw hilt by Rosamund Pike, this grief-numbed widow is both a victim and an angel of compassion and mercy, who shows courage in the most devastating circumstances.
The on-screen pairing of the two British actors elevates Cooper's film.
Blocker has much blood on his hands. A military man of few words and questionable deeds, he begrudgingly escorts his sworn enemy - Cheyenne tribal chef Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) - from a prison cell at Fort Berringer in New Mexico to the Valley Of The Bears in Montana.
Yellow Hawk is gravely ill and wishes to be at one with his ancestors, surrounded by family including his son Black Hawk (Adam Beach) and daughter-in-law Elk Woman (Q'orianka Kilcher).
En route, Blocker's posse befriends Rosalie Quaid (Pike), whose husband and children have been slaughtered by Comanches, and accepts a new commission to escort murderer Sergeant Charles Wills (Ben Foster) to the gallows.
Hostiles trots when it could gallop, allowing resentment and rivalries to fester against the backdrop of the Mountain States, which provide a breathtaking canvas for Japanese cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi.
The west wasn't won - it was brutally, forcibly taken, and never returned.
All The Money In The World (Cert 15, 133 mins)
The removal of Kevin Spacey from Ridley Scott's propulsive thriller has been making headlines since early November.
Replacement Christopher Plummer filmed scenes as oil tycoon John Paul Getty in nine days, leaving Scott and editor Claire Simpson to rework the finished picture in weeks.
The film is still generating awards buzz and Plummer (88), is strongly tipped to become the oldest Academy Awards nominee in any acting category for his scene-stealing theatrics.
Based on one version of events surrounding the 1973 kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III, Scott's picture sustains dramatic tension with aplomb as David Scarpa's script ricochets between the gang holding the boy hostage and the dysfunctional Getty family.
The abductors demand a $17million ransom but oil tycoon Getty (Plummer) refuses to plunder a cent from his billion-dollar empire.
Instead, he hires ex-CIA agent and security consultant Fletcher Chace (Mark Wahlberg) to rescue the boy.
The hunt culminates in a nerve-wracking race to rescue the teenager from crime boss Saro Mammoliti (Marco Leonardi).
Based on John Pearson's book Painfully Rich, All The Money In The World absolves the young Getty of collusion in his own kidnapping.
Scott engineers a stylish and engrossing thriller that makes light work of a robust 133-minute running time, including a nail-biting, climatic set piece that wilfully ignores historical facts.