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HomeAwardsCinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi & Editor Tom Cross - Hostiles

Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi & Editor Tom Cross – Hostiles

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(Left to Right) Jonathan Majors as Corp. Henry Woodsen, Christian Bale as Capt. Joseph Blocker, Rory Cochrane as Master Sgt. Thomas Metz

Hostiles is a riveting Western set in 1892, as Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) is assigned to escort dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family from New Mexico back to his homeland in Montana. Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) is suddenly thrusted into this journey with Blocker and Yellow Hawk as her family was ambushed and murdered by a Comanche tribe. Hostiles is the fourth film from director Scott Cooper (Black Mass, Out of the Furnace, Crazy Heart). Cooper brought on trusted crew members cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Black Mass, Spotlight, Out of the Furnace) and editor Tom Cross (La La Land, Joy, Whiplash) to achieve this powerful gripping film.

The 1800s look was a collaboration of every department from camera, lighting, production design, location, costume, and makeup. Much research was presented throughout the production. As they scouted locations, those locations started inspiring them as the 1800s look grew with every element coming together.

Takayanagi detailed his process regarding lighting and the elements of nature. “My approach was to light the night scenes evenly. I had a big light from above, getting a very even low ambience level. The firepits and lamps are the motivation to give the glow on the face of the subjects. Most of the rain seen in the movie was artificially created. When it actually did rain and lightning, we had to stop production 2-3 times. I kind of embraced what the sun gave us, there was some beauty in it.”

Rosamund Pike as Rosalie Quaid (left) and Christian Bale as Capt. Joseph Blocker (right)
Rosamund Pike as Rosalie Quaid (left) and Christian Bale as Capt. Joseph Blocker (right)

The editing seamlessly intertwined with the photography with beautiful wide and landscape shots that could be extended out in one long take as it provided more opportunity for exploring a well composed frame. Cross edified, “That was because Scott really wanted to put the audience in this time and place. He wanted to luxuriate in these beautiful landscapes to let the West dictate how we told the story and how we cut from the shots that his cinematographer had captured. They lent themselves to a lot of dissolves and superimposition and that in turn helped the psychological element.”

John Benjamin Hickey as Capt. Royce Tolan (left) with Christian Bale as Capt. Joseph Blocker (right)
John Benjamin Hickey as Capt. Royce Tolan (left) with Christian Bale as Capt. Joseph Blocker (right)

The cinematography provides the editing process with various choices within the group scenes. The cinematographer elaborated, “Most of the campfire scenes were multi-camera coverage. This was probably the most shot listed movie that Scott and I did together, just because of the nature of shooting out in the exterior.” The editor continued, “One of the big challenges is to really keep every character alive. If you don’t show a character for a certain amount of time, you have to have a good reason. Likewise, similarly you have good reasons to cut to the characters. All of the performances were so strong and I could hold on any number of characters, and it would hold the attention. The key for putting those scenes together was to remember what is the goal of the scene, what am I trying to get out of this, what plot do I need to know.”

(Left to Right) Makayah Crowfoot as Apache Girl, Q'orianka Kilcher as Elk Woman, Rosamund Pike as Rosalie Quaid, Tanaya Beatty as Living Woman
(Left to Right) Makayah Crowfoot as Apache Girl, Q’orianka Kilcher as Elk Woman, Rosamund Pike as Rosalie Quaid, Tanaya Beatty as Living Woman

The point of view changed. In the beginning, Scott’s strategy was to hold back on showing close-ups of Yellow Hawk and his family. He didn’t want to let the audience empathize, but show those characters through the eyes of Captain Blocker and of Rosalie. What helped was showing the Cheyenne more objectively. We knew that the place we wanted to end up in the journey would have more emotional power and weight if we held back from showing too many sides of Yellow Hawk’s character to begin with. Those pieces had to be earned through the duration of the journey,” Cross concluded.

Hostiles is a stirring film that combines the power of gorgeous cinematography and precisely timed editing working uniformly to heighten the realism of every character by painting heart-rending performances to transmit empathy to the audience as they are transplanted into 1892 in direct correspondence to the characters, for the betterment of the story. The very essence of Hostiles is to demonstrate that people are capable of recognizing a common ground and have the capacity to come together to prevail. 

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