This Christian Bale-Led Neo-Western makes us pay attention to the Cowboys

Trigger warning: The following references PTSD, suicide, and violence.

Gone are the days of unshakable cowboys John Wayne. In their place has arrived a more refined and nuanced western style that feels and reflects itself. Rice Scott CooperNeo-Western drama the enemy. If there is a Western film about mental illness and the nature of war for men, this is it. In a genre that often focuses little or no on mental health as it relates to the period known as “The Wild West,” Scott Cooper presents a film that addresses it, making the story a big part of its plot and characters.

the enemy Follow the journey of Capt. Joseph Blocker (Christian Bell) while he reluctantly leads a team of Union soldiers, including a brief appearance by Timothée Chalamet Sporting a French accent, on a mission to Montana with the goal of getting the Cheyenne war chief and his family there safely. Capt. Blocker initially did not want to go while he and Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) is an old enemy. Through the gunfights, deaths, and various challenges the escort group faces, reflections of grief, and PTSD are shown through many characters but especially in Capt. Joe, his longtime friend, and right, Sgt. Thomas Metz (Rory Cochrane) and the woman who was helped named Rosalee Quaid (Rosamund Pike).

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What is Sgt. Metz struggles with emotions in ‘The Enemy’?

Rory Cochrane as Sgt.  Metz in Hostiles (2017)
Image via Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

At the beginning of the movie, Sgt. Metz revealed to Blocker that he felt he no longer had a purpose since he was told he had “melancholia”, a form of depression that some people referred to at the time this film took place. Blocker denied the claim, something that would later come back to bite him because he, or most people at the time, didn’t know how to handle something like that. Metz also revealed that they took the gun from him as a precaution. Blocker chooses Metz to accompany him on escort duty as a way to give him a new purpose, even giving his sidearm back. Capt. Blocker could not have realized at the time that the mission would be the very thing that pushed Metz to the top.

Sgt. Metz has indicated that he is suffering from PTSD due to his time in the various conflicts he was a part of. He resents violence and is depicted discussing graphic details with little emotion. He talks about the problem of falling asleep from nightmares, and the general feeling of being out of place and lost. He still has great guilt from something he did before when we met him. This is most clearly shown when he has an emotional breakdown during a rainstorm and pleads with Chief Yellow Hawk and his family for forgiveness. Shortly after this, Metz took the opportunity to chase the escaped prisoners in their party to end his own life. A sad ending where a man is misunderstood by his military friends.

Capt. How did Blocker & Rosalee Quaid deal with grief in ‘Enemies’?

Rosamund Pike as Rosalee Quaid in Hostiles (2017)
Image via Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

The first scene in the movie is where Rosalee Quaid’s entire family is brutally killed by hostile Native Americans. When the audience caught her, it was when Blocker’s group found the scene of the attack maybe only hours later. Rosalee is holding her recently dead baby, unable to bear the fact that the baby is dead, despite absolutely denying it to Blocker and his men. Finally, Rosalee allowed to bury her family and accept what happened. She was shocked and saddened when she was first introduced. She was also shocked at the sight of the Cheyenne Natives that Blocker was leading.

With Blocker, the sadness and grief he experiences is more compounded and repressed. These states come to the fore when he finds Sgt. Metz after his suicide. Blocker constantly tries to come up with a reason for what he did during his service in the army, never giving himself time to understand the emotions surrounding it. All the crazy and scary things the other characters mention are just part of the job for Blocker, or at least that’s what he says. When Blocker lost Sgt. Metz, he breaks down as if he lost someone close to the conflict of the past that should be behind him. The consequences of the war over the years took another life, opening all the old wounds that Blocker had kept.

How does the ‘enemy’ represent the treatment of grief?

Rosamund Pike as Rosalee Quaid in Hostiles (2017)
Image via Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

Both Capt. Blocker and Rosalee find different levels of healing from their grief through the end of the film. Although Blocker is presented as a monster and a racist at the beginning of the film, he finds a way to see things from a different perspective, slowly treating the Cheyennes in his care with more humanity. Similarly for Rosalee, where at first she was afraid of Cheyenne, because of her trauma from losing her family, she was able to separate them from the hostile Native Americans. Although nothing can be excused with Blocker’s behavior and his history that the film gives us, he ends up in a better place than when first introduced, even protecting the remaining Cheyenne family members with his life. The final moments of the film show Rosalee with the last child of Chief Yellow Hawks’ family in her care, and the change that Joseph Blocker boarded the train at the last minute to be with them.

the enemy It might not be the deepest or most action-packed western, but it’s still worth a watch if for nothing else than to see how the filmmakers handle such a sensitive subject in any situation. The inclusion of a focus on mental health in the film was a risk that paid off as it kept the drama of the event through scenes that did not require any dramatic action to take place at the time. Since mental health is a universal subject, it addresses modern issues that real people face, even if it is done in a way that critics may not like.

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