Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Movie Review: The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Acting, story, visuals, music.  Honestly, the entire package.
Cons: Choppy story telling in the first third
The Bottom Line:
A bit rough at first
Once it gets going, it's great
And will pull you in

Romance During the French and Indian War

I am not generally a fan of war films, finding them formulaic.  Naturally, that means I saw The Last of the Mohicans against my better judgment.  But the end result was moving enough for me to watch again.  It was just as good on the second viewing.

In 1757, The French and Indian War is in full swing.  Caught in the carnage on the New York frontier are Cora and Alice Munro (Madeleine Stowe and Jodhi May).  While attempting to join their father at Fort William Henry, they are attacked by a bunch of Indians, then rescued by Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), a white man raised by Indians, and his adopted father and brother.

But getting to the fort isn't the end of their troubles.  The fort is currently under siege and about to fall to the French.  Even worse, Magua (Wes Studi) has sworn to get his vengeance on the Munro clan.  Will anyone survive the coming bloodshed?

My enjoyment of this film is despite the first third.  It includes sloppy cuts and hardly any introduction of the major or minor characters.  Even rewatching it, I spent the time trying to figure out who all these people are.  We are simply dumped into the action and left to figure things out.

Once I get my bearings, I really get swept up in the story.  All the leads characters are likable.  Hawkeye and his relatives are willing to sacrifice themselves for those they care about and a cause they know is just.  Cora is strong while Alice is very excited at the beginning but overwhelmed by all they experience.

It's because of these characters that I actually find the fight sequences compelling.  I have a stake in the outcome.  There are several battles and skirmishes as the movie progresses all of which are easy to follow.  They also earn the film its R rating because they are brutal at times.

The romance between Cora and Hawkeye is as much a part of the movie as the battles.  It starts a little abruptly, but I quickly buy into it.  The chemistry between Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe is amazing, which helps make it believable.

The movie is beautifully filmed and scored as well.  The music accompanying the action is haunting and fits the mood perfectly.   Most of the action takes place outside, and the shots are stunning.

Completing the package is the great acting.  I already praised the chemistry between the leads, but they capture every emotion of their characters perfectly.  Several of the cast must perform in multiple languages, and they don't miss a thing.  But for me, the biggest standout is Jodhi May.  Alice actually has the biggest emotional arc, and she hits every note perfectly.

All this leads to a bittersweet but wonderful conclusion.

This isn't the kind of movie I would normally watch, but I'm glad I did.  Once you get past a rough start, The Last of the Mohicans is good.

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