Broadcast this evening on France 3, the great film “Hostiles” marked the return of Christian Bale to the western and to the foreground. For the occasion, he offers himself one of his most beautiful roles, and one of the most personal of his career.
Thirteen years ago, Christian Bale took his first steps in a western thanks to 3:10 for Yuma, before exploding the box office and earning his stripes as a pop culture icon with The Dark Knight considered, today again, as one of the best superhero movies ever made.
A decade later, the Welsh actor, Oscar winner in 2011 for his role in Fighter, sets foot in the Wild West in Hostiles, in order to escort an Indian chief to his land. The opportunity for him to find Scott Cooper, who had already directed him in The Braziers of Wrath, but above all to afford one of his most beautiful roles (and one of his most personal), within of a career that was not lacking in quality.
(Re) here is the trailer for the film, broadcast tonight on France 3 at 9:05 pm …
Revealed by Steven Spielberg and his Empire of the Sun in 1987, Christian Bale took some time to come to the fore. Born in 1974, the same year as Leonardo DiCaprio, he has long competed with the latter, and had even auditioned to be the Jack Dawson of Titanic.
Rejected by James Cameron, who did not want to have two British actors to play Americans, he remains docked and must wait until the early 2000s to finally explode. If American Psycho, the film, is not as striking as the novel from which it is inspired, its main interpreter is causing a sensation and it is in particular thanks to his incarnation of Patrick Bateman that he lands the role of … Batman .
After a chain Equilibrium – The Machinist, which proves his capacities in terms of action and shows how far he can go physically for a role, Batman Begins hits theaters worldwide in June 2005, and launches a big decade in the during which the comedian will explore various degrees of the figure of the hero.
There is first the Chosen One, undoubtedly the least convincing aspect, which he addresses in Terminator Renaissance then Exodus, and where his destiny is to save Humanity; the characters who dream of themselves as heroes but quickly become disillusioned, broken or cheated by their entourage and their environment, a common point of his performances with David O. Russell (Fighter then American Bluff); or the heroes out of necessity, forced to stand up against the enemy, as in Flowers of War or 3h10 for Yuma.
With Christian Bale, there is therefore no question of playing the valiant knights, without fear and without reproach, and it is precisely in their ambiguities that his heroes prove to be interesting. Even when they walk a tightrope, between Good and Evil, like his Batman, and the characters he plays in Scott Cooper: the avenging Russell Baze of the Blaze of Wrath, and the Joseph Blocker ofHostiles.
Three roles among the most beautiful and strong of his career, which is undoubtedly no coincidence, because it is in this configuration that the actor best expresses his physical and psychological qualities. It is also easy to draw parallels between the Bruce Wayne of The Dark Knight Rises and the Captain of the Western. Hostiles.
On one side or the other, it seems worn, shattered by years spent in the service of an ideal (to bring justice to Gotham City and to wage the war against the American Indians) which led him to controversial actions: in Batman Begins like at the end of The dark knight, where he endorses the status of Dark Knight at the same time as responsibility for the crimes of Double-Face, his status as a hero is constantly called into question. Especially when he fails to cross the border between justice and revenge to lead his crusade, and slips by hijacking the sonar created by Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) to make a tool of mass surveillance.
Not to mention the fact that it was his presence that would bring about the arrival of the Joker and Bane, as James Gordon (Gary Oldman) suggests at the end of Batman Begins, by evoking the one-upmanship at work among the wicked since the advent of the Batman.
The character’s actions create a blur, since he is both the cause of an outburst of violence and its solution. This same dynamic animates the character of Joseph Blocker in Hostiles and her heartbreak can be read in her eyes. He is indeed seen as a hero from the American camp, and as a barbarian through the eyes of Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), who was one of his most devious enemies and whom he drives back to his lands, in order to atone for his sins and bury the hatchet.
BRUCE WAYNE, JOSEPH BLOCKER, CHRISTIAN BALE: SAME FIGHT?
As the official synopsis forHostiles, the protagonists of the film are “shaped by suffering, violence and death”. And this is also what connects the best characters of Christian Bale’s career: Jim (Empire of the Sun), Patrick Bateman (American Psycho), Trevor Reznik (The Machinist), Bruce Wayne (the Dark Knight saga), Jim David (Bad Times) or Dicky Eklund (Fighter), to name a few. And so Captain Joseph Blocker. Calmer, not to say extinct at times, and whose gaze betrays the fatigue as much as the limp and the scars on Bruce Wayne’s body in The Dark Knight Rises.
On screen, the feature film took place eight years after the events of the previous opus. For viewers, this third and final episode of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy was released eight years after the filming of Batman Begins.
Coincidence? Not necessarily, because the wear and tear of Bruce Wayne can therefore be seen as that of his interpreter, back to conclude the story and that we will not see again, subsequently, in a blockbuster of this caliber, him who would have, according to rumor, refused a golden bridge from Zack Snyder and the Warner to take over the role of Batman and go up against Superman.
The relieved and burdened young man of the Batman’s mask and cloak, seen by Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, would just as well be the Bruce Wayne directed by Christopher Nolan than a Christian Bale happy to be done with a role that physically demanded a lot of him, and propelled him to the front of the media scene. For the best when he became one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors, and for the worst when his stroke on the set of Terminator Renaissance hit him like a boomerang in the face, as McG’s film approached dark rooms.
An incident that some saw as proof of the intensity and involvement of the actor in each of his roles, when others saw nothing more than an angry and moody actor. And it is the same, in a more extreme way certainly, for his character in Hostiles, seen in two different ways depending on the camp in which one is located, and which can appear as a hollow portrait of his interpreter, able to embody his roles with total depth on the psychological level, as specified by Scott Cooper in l interview he gave us.
Replace the Wild West of 1892 for today’s Hollywood, and the war within the film with the battles it waged, with total (and sometimes physical) investment, to stay at the top of the film industry, and you will see the feature film in a different light.
NO HEROES FOR CHRISTIAN BALE?
It is perhaps no coincidence that, as Joseph Blocker left the front line, Christian Bale has been a little more in the background, absent from the screens since the release of Knight of Cups at the end of 2015. There has been his participation. à La Promesse, released in November 2017 in France, but it was much more secondary than what the poster suggested.
More than two years have passed before this return to the top of the bill, whose power, already important, seems to be increased tenfold by what he says about his main actor, able to nail us to our chair when his character is taken. without a spiral of violence, then pulling tears from us by the sheer force of his gaze in the final sequence, as he enters a new era.
A quick glance at Christian Bale’s projects also made it possible to strengthen the parallel with Blocker: in addition to the biopic on Dick Cheney directed by Adam McKay (averaging a new weight gain), he gave the voice in Andy Serkis’ Mowgli, in the guise of the panther Bagheera. A lively way of abandoning the roles of heroes for those of mentors, like those he held in The Big Short.
The fact that he was in contention for the role eventually played by Woody Harrelson in Solo: A Star Wars Story goes in that direction, in which case Hostiles seemed like the conclusion of a decade spent playing the heroes in all their forms, and which he would have come out worn.
And that’s what Scott Cooper, who claimed to write with an actor or actress in mind, arguably offered Christian Bale one of his best roles with Hostiles. A strong character in a film that is no less so, where the beauty of the great outdoors and the music contrasts with the brutality of the violence, and in which the Welshman delivers a new performance full of intensity.
Which becomes a little more moving when we detect links with the career of the one who has known how to assert himself as one of the best Batman seen on the big screen (if not the best), but especially an actor who has marked the last decade by its intensity and its total investment, capable of disappearing behind its characters without repeating itself.