A life of military service is almost over for Captain Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale). His final marching orders before retirement have been assigned. There’s just one problem: Blocker must transport his greatest rival, Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), to Montana. This final assignment is revolting to Captain Blocker since his main task had been eradicating resistant Indian tribes. After witnessing Chief Yellow Hawk butcher his closest friends on the battlefield, Blocker must complete the journey or lose his military pension. The Captain swallows his pride and saddles up for the journey.
It doesn’t take long before the travel party passes the wreckage of a Comanche raid. Rosalee Quaid (Rosamund Pike) is the lone survivor; her husband, daughters, and possessions were ripped away in one fell swoop. Captain Blocker adopts the dismayed Rosalee, halting the trip to help bury her family.
With an active war party in the area and the addition of an emotionally unstable Rosalee, the difficulty of getting to Montana increases exponentially. Chief Yellow Hawk ascertains the peril faced by the group and pleads for Blocker to release the Indian men from their chains.
It’s a brilliant moment that portrays Blocker’s unforgiveness. He would rather risk the lives of everyone around him than release his hatred of the Cheyenne people.
The party manages to reach a small outpost where a prisoner sentenced to death is added to the Captain Blocker’s care. As chance would have it, the criminal, Philip Wills (Ben Foster), served alongside Blocker but is sentenced to death for murder as a civilian. Chained to a tree, Wills recalls all the atrocities he and Blocker committed side by side in battle. Appealing for mercy, Philip Wills pleads with his former captain to wipe the slate clean. Blocker refuses.
The confrontation with Wills rattles Blocker but he still wants to justify his heinous acts and condemn others. God’s Word warns us of this error:
Matthew 7:1-4 (KJV)
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
It isn’t until Blocker observes Rosalee befriending the imprisoned Indian women and children that blocker recognizes his need to change. Like Blocker, Rosalee had watched her loved ones die at the hands of Indian renegades but she has chosen to forgive. Blocker follows Rosalee’s lead and unchains the Cheyenne captives.
Hostiles isn’t the classic western film with good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats. By the end of the film everyone has blood on their hands. No one traveled the path without taking life or helping others kill. The Bible speaks to the reality that all of mankind is guilty of sin:
Romans 3:23 (KJV)
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God
This is a bleak reality. Hollywood loves to tell stories like Hostiles where everyone is guilty but they fail to offer salvation. They can’t. God alone offers hope to the condemned!
Romans 5:8-10 (KJV)
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Captain Blocker is in denial. He doesn’t want to face the mirror because he knows what he’ll see. A sinner. It’s more palatable to ignore his guilt and condemn others. By comparing himself to others, Blocker hopes to justify his actions because he thinks he’s not as bad as Philip Wills or Chief Yellow Hawk.
Don’t waste your time like Blocker. Trust in God; He loves us! We can’t work our way into right standing with God. Doing less evil than another person doesn’t make us righteous; our righteousness is like “filthy rags” before the Lord. The believer is justified by the blood of Christ. This unmerited favor is our hope.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.