Rating: B+ for my BEATING HEART, mostly due to the last twenty minutes and that soundtrack.
Summary: Three men provide transport to the daughters of a British colonel during the French and Indian War.
A few weeks ago, I was coming off my watch of Mulan and made a joke to John about how there were fifty other things I could be doing and one of those things was “You know, like watch The Last of the Mohicans again.” What a mistake. I was done. That soundtrack kicked in, it dug its way into my brain, and I could not get that fiddle out of my head. I needed to watch this movie so badly that I actually shelled out MONEY to “rent” the Definitive Director’s Cut off of AMAZON. WHO AM I!? (Update, of course the Saturday after this is posted, the movie is now included with Prime for no cost.)
The Last of the Mohicans is one of those 90s historical epic movies that I grew up on, courtesy of my dad, along with Tombstone, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Braveheart, The Patriot, and Gladiator. (Our family has a type, what can I say?) Right after Tombstone, The Last of the Mohicans is probably my next favorite and like Tombstone, it’s a packed movie that shrinks itself down to personal vendettas. It’s a historical epic on a smaller, grounded scale, going to-and-from the broader events between the British and French, and the civilians that have to deal with the fall out. Uh… not all the history is accurate. But the American Frontier has never felt more mysterious and adventurous! I will say- for a nearly 30-year old movie that I saw a few times when I was a kid, this is a movie that holds up. I was engaged. It’s pretty timeless. Mmm, the score. The sweeping wide shots. The editing. Madeleine Stowe’s hair. All the tracking in all the running shots (re: many). Director Michael Mann got plenty right in this.
You know who doesn’t actually get it all right is Daniel Day-Lewis. That’s right! I said it! He’s the weakest link! This is probably my least favorite Daniel Day-Lewis movie, though it’s probably one of his best known. He’s great in the dramatic parts but there’s just something off with his delivery with the more action-y one liners that are scattered throughout these kinds of movies. If you’re familiar with Robin Hood and The Patriot, it’s like the “I hAvE a bRoThEr!” delivery vs “My sons were better men.” The latter is infinitely better than the former- and Day-Lewis is more Kevin Costner-like instead of Mel Gibson-ish.
LITERALLY EVERYONE ELSE IS GREAT THOUGH, SO IT’S OK, from Wes Studi as Magua to Eric Schweig’s Uncas, who I’ve now mentally named Non-Legolas because all he does is run and stare. LegUncas? Probably got direction like, “Goddamn, you’re handsome. Stand here, look good, stare off into the distance, and think about something. Ok, now look concerned. Not that concerned. Aaaaaand run off, real fast. That’s it, that’s all we need.”
I mean, they weren’t wrong with what they did with him and it’s not just with that guy- the non-speaking acting is really great throughout (Studi is just a chef’s kiss here) and the thought processes of all the characters are highly visible. When complimented with the editing and (ugh) that score, the visual cues are extremely coherent. To be honest, I think they could have cut a lot of the dialogue. Maybe not the political deliberation because that context is important and provides the right tension, but the Day-Lewis zingers and even some of the flirting with Stowe probably could have been eliminated and this movie would have been even better.
And we know this is true because… they did it. In their own movie! And it’s the sequence LOTM is best known for. We have all that time after our Mohicanship leaves the waterfall and there’s some conversation with the Huron tribe about future relations with both the British and French- but then there’s no more dialogue for the last ten minutes, just focus on actions and reactions, cause and effect of our main characters. This is straight up perfection, visually, musically, and absolutely packed with tension. It’s one of my favorites of all time. I’ll go as far to say it’s just as good as anything from Lord of the Rings. I’ve seen it out of sequence plenty and listened to it countless times- as much as it’s burned into my brain, it never fails to make my heart beat a little faster. I just can’t look away.
HAVE I MENTIONED THE SOUNDTRACK.