Director Scott Cooper’s new film Hostiles, is out this Friday, a Western film which sees him reteaming with his Out of the Furnace lead, Christian Bale. Alongside the director and lead actor, you may also be drawn to watch Hostiles because of its star-studded cast, which also includes Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi or that it is yet another positively reviewed film in the resurgence of the Western genre. However, if you do go and see Hostiles, please take note of the purpose of this ‘Focus’ post and try and pay particular attention to the performance of Ben Foster in the film.
After dropping out of high school to pursue acting, Ben Foster first came to attention in the Disney television series, Flash Forward, in the lead role as Tucker ‘Tuck’ James. His transition to film was most notable in 2001’s Get Over It where he starred alongside Kirsten Dunst and recieved a nomination for a Teen Choice Award for his performance. Foster then took a few supporting roles in films in the years following, but his big commerical break and where I first noticed his talent came when he starred as Archangel in X-Men: The Last Stand. Foster’s portrayal as Archangel is particularly brilliant and there is one scene, very early into the film where he tries to get rid of his superhero which is particularly harrowing and you can really sense the conviction in Foster’s character.
Foster is no stranger to the Western genre however. He impressed even more following X-Men: The Last Stand with a supporting role in James Mangold’s brilliant Western remake, 3:10 To Yuma as a right-hand man to Russell Crowe’s ruthless cowboy. He then took a leading role alongside Woody Harrelson’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of a strict recovering alcoholic Army Captain in The Messenger.
Foster had some supporting roles since then but next clocked on my radar in 2013 with three barnstorming performances. Firstly, he played Beat poet William S. Burroughs in Kill Your Darlings alongside Daniel Radcliffe in one of his first post-Potter roles. Secondly, in David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints as a morally conflicted policeman, but perhaps most effectively of them all, his performance in Lone Survivor as a soldier who dedicates his life to his country in the War of Afghanistan.
Perhaps Foster’s best performance to date was when he played Lance Armstrong in Stephen Frears’ biopic in The Program. Foster is so eerily brilliant as the shamed athlete and even took performance enhancing drugs to experience what his character took part in. There are so many moments where he channels Armstrong so well and Foster more than ably manages to portray a fine line between Armstrong’s determination for success and his bullying nature.
Foster’s follow-up, Hell or High Water, is one of my favourite films of 2016, an elegiac exercise that has a brilliant cat-and-mouse plot, whilst in the same time interweaving the strong themes of family and life. Foster is the mentally unstable and aggressive brother to Chris Pine’s lead character and yet again, he is so brilliant from quiet scenes of brotherly bravado juxtaposed to the calculated, cold character he inhabits who robs banks. It’s a near-perfect film and one that Foster integrates into seamlessly.
Clearly, Foster has always taken varied roles, yet despite this variation, has consistently managed to impress and always put in brilliant performances. At best, he elevates already strong films and at worst, he elevates weaker films with his performances. Warcraft may have recieved bad reviews and whilst it’s definitely a mixed bag in my opinion, Foster at least seems to be having fun as a conflicted wizard.
So, if you do get a chance to watch Hostiles, take note of the performance Foster gives and do check out these other films that I have really enjoyed him in, as not only are they all very solid films, he’s brilliant in them.
Hostiles is released today in UK cinemas