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"The Last of the Mohicans" was one of the most popular and acclaimed
films of 1992. Its vision of early America, as it was during the French
and Indian War, is captured in its utter brutality and beauty, complete
with the many driving ambitions and clashing cultures of everyone
This movie has a bit of everything, including action, romance, war, and passionate drama. The director, Michael Mann, knows the story well and does all but completely discard James Fenimore Cooper's source material, which some have dubbed as being racist and totally unfair in its portrait of Native Americans.
The story (and what a story) is all over the place, with three frontier scouts - Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), Chingachgook (Russell Means), and Uncas (Eric Schweig) - escorting a British colonel's daughters - Cora and Alice Munro (Madeleine Stowe and Jodhi May respectively) - to safety at the besieged Fort William Henry. Major Duncan Heyward (Steven Waddington) rivals Hawkeye for Cora's affections and a vengeance-driven Huron named Magua (Wes Studi) seeks to have both daughters killed in retribution for the loss of his own children.
This is by far Mann's best film yet (it ranks #15 on my all-time favorite movies list) and he uses the lush wilderness settings to great effect. He also makes good use of the editing, which actually comes in handy when showcasing the brutal violence that dominates much of the film's action sequences. The film's last 20 minutes are a definite stunner that can only be described as classic and vicious.
This is a great movie that shows America in its infancy, complete with the rivalries, intrigue, and violence that I'm sure was an everyday part of life during this hectic time period.
The Last Of The Mohicans
This is turning out to be one of my most favourite romantic epics of all time. I know most people do not see this as romantic as it is a classic battle movie. As a matter of fact, seeing the trailer and the posters left me with the impression that this is indeed a war movie, what with the battle scenes and all; something along the lines of `Braveheart'. But upon seeing the movie, I was awed by the unexpected change in genre. The movie is a masterpiece, and all the actors and actresses certainly do amazing jobs. Daniel Day Lewis is simply amazing as Hawkeye. Though I usually try to read some of the more interesting books based on which movies are made, I haven't read the book in this case. But I sincerely doubt whether the book can be as good. Plus, I am told that the movie and the book have little in common.
Madeline Stowe is stunning as Cora Munro, and Jodhi May was certainly impressive as the frail dependent younger sister. Nathaniel, or Hawkeye', is the adopted son of Chingachgook, played by Russell Means, whose real and lone son Uncas contributes to the team's claim of being the last of the Mohican clan. The British recruitment of Militia from its colonies during a time of war against France brings about a certain unrest. And it is further deepened by the character of Magua, who is a Huron warrior bent on a personal vendetta against British Colonel Munro, and his family. Magua is bent on the utter destruction of Colonel Munro and his two daughters, hence wiping his seed from the earth'. Chingachgook and his two sons become entwined in between all this. To top that, Nathaniel falls in love with Cora and their love story takes the show from there. It is sensually and emotionally stimulating, and we as the audience feels engulfed in the mastery.
The love story I liked better was the one played in the background, an story that is absent, yet strongly felt throughout the movie. I am referring to the love story between Eric Schweig's character, Uncas and Alice Munro, played by Jodhi May. It is the subtleness and the overtone-nature of the love that builds in us a sense of involvement. To the best of my memory, they never spoke a word to each other, but the passion is strongly felt. And the climax really takes us to another level of appreciation.
Wes Studi is probably the fiercest villain I have seen on screen. His mere presence builds an acute level of intimidation. The character portrayal is flawless, and the casting done is excellent. I do not believe that anybody , anybody at all, could have replaced Wes in this movie. The fierceness, the anger, the viciousness, the the everything required to build up the character He has done all that. Probably his best performance yet.
The music is sort of unconventional. Usually, the pace of the music is in sync with the pace of the action on screen. But in this case, the same slow music floods the scenes whether the pace on-screen is fast or slow. If I had heard somebody else say that, I certainly would have thought that it would not be effective. But amazingly, this unconventional approach works. And how! The music is probably the most addictive feature about the movie. After the first time I saw it, the music lingered in my mind for a month. All my waking moments, my mind was echoing that brilliant piece of work. I am a very very huge fan of Hans Zimmer, but I doubt if even he could have done a better job.
I have seen the movie eight times to date. And I will definitely see it again. The climactic scene is so moving that I have lost count how many times I've seen that.
This was one of those movies I didn't expect that much when I first saw
it so I was pleasantly surprised. Since then, it has skyrocketed to
nearly the top on my list of all-time favorite films. I can't think of
too many other adventure films that are better. Just a great, great
It boasts an interesting story filled with intense characters, beautiful scenery, a fantastic score, good action and a nice romance. So....there is a lot to like about this Michael Mann-directed film.
The action scenes are quite realistic, and border on being almost too prevalent, to be fair. However, even if it may be a little too intense or frequent, the action is always interesting and varied, from all-out assaults to individual battles.
The story takes place in Eastern New York State but, in reality, was filmed in beautiful Smokey Mountain areas in Asheville, N.C. This movie looks spectacular and with an epic, sweeping soundtrack is quite a feast for the eyes and ears.
The eye candy includes a handsome leading couple: Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeline Stowe. Wes Studi is mesmerizing as the "bad guy." If you liked him in "Geronimo: An American Legend," you'll like his work here.
If you are fairly young and only know Michael Mann through his crime movies like "Heat" or "Collateral," please check this earlier film out. It could be Mann's best, which is saying a lot.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It used to baffle me why this film hasn't been held in greater esteem. I
blown away by this film when I first saw it, and knew quite a few people
snuck back to the theater several times for more. The beautiful and harsh
scenery, dreamlike photography, sudden explosions of bloody violence, and
raging, over-the-top passion amid a collapsing world create a pure
rush. This is melodrama at its best, which means that it can really stir
your emotions if you let it.
After reading a recent review of Ron Howard's "The Missing" by Steve Sailer (Washington Times) I think I know why "Last of the Mohicans" was overlooked. No matter how good this film was, it bucked the dominant trend in pop-culture perceptions of Native Americans at the time - a trend, according to Sailer, that might be reversing. Here's a historical breakdown of trends in similar films:
1. 1950-1970 - Native Americans are one-dimensional, easily killed, comic-book villians. No religious elements appear. There are only a few exceptions to this rule (e.g. John Ford's "The Searchers").
2. 1970s - Native American violence becomes brutal and real - but we also get rising sensitivity to Native Anericans without much sappy-ness. To quote Sailer:
"'The Missing' resembles 'Ulzana's Raid,' the 1972 Burt Lancaster film that was one of several brutal but realistic films (such as 1970's 'A Man Called Horse') made during a brief period of balance in the depiction of Native Americans, falling between the earlier era's anti-Indian prejudice and the present day's happy-clappy New Age nonsense."
In other words, if "Last of the Mohicans" had been released in 1970 it might have been hailed as "progressive."
3. 1980s and 1990s - Religious/spiritual interpretations of Native Americans become dominant but are just as comic-book as the old 1950s violence. Native Americans are cute New Age "Dances With Wolves" icons that sit around and act wise. "Native American" becames an always-good point of reference in the Culture Wars. Classic example from South Park: an old hippie screams in front of a new Starbuck's
"...how many Native Americans did you slaughter to make that coffee shop?"
Michael Mann's "The Last of the Mohicans" (1992) clearly ran counter to the 1990s trend - it was trashed by critics at the time but I've always felt it was a much better film than it is given credit for, even a classic. But it bucks the New Age image of Native Americans so popular in 1992. For example, the old chief at the end uses his spiritual authority to make a brutal, violent decision for death so that justice is served. The Native American father Chingagchook kills the revenge and power-mad Magua without pity. And as for Magua's own behavior...nobody on either side is asking "...can't we all just get along?"
In other words, Mann picked the exact wrong time to make this film. In the 1970s it might have been properly recognized, but by 1992 it was out of step with the touchy-feely image of Native Americans. Coupled with its obvious melodrama and action-film hype, the film became too much of a "guilty pleasure" to win praise (but don't let that stop you now).
Movies are changing again, and that might be a good reason to go out and rent "Last of the Mohicans." According to Sailer, "the dark side of Native American spiritualism" is now being seen in "Missing". Like "Mohicans", Howard's new film loses the New Age stuff for a dreamlike action/horror state. The scenes below have their obvious parallels in "Mohicans":
Blanchett finds her boyfriend's charred corpse strung up over a campfire where the Indians slowly roasted him to death. Later, when a photographer snaps the Apache leader's picture, the shaman gets his soul back by tearing out the man's heart.
The other problem with "Mohicans" was that it is too "manly." There's a very strong female lead, but the men are also real, lusty, nasty men. By including this brand of passion, "Mohicans" conflicted directly with the "girl power" pop culture trend of the mid-1990s. Admitting you liked the film made you anti-woman as well as anti Native American.
In this light, consider Sailer's comments on "Missing" - they apply equally to "Mohicans:"
"Still, I have to admire Howard for ignoring the bogus and condescending fantasies about American Indian culture rampant in our society today. Native Americans have suffered enough without having the memory of their warriors emasculated by self-absorbed eco-feminists into sappy symbols. Geronimo was a cruel man, but he was every inch a man."
We may be on the edge of a revival of films which are capable of mixing Native Americans, violence, and romance in a good way. If so, the underappreciated "Last of the Mohicans" is a place to start.
Policier specialist Michael Mann steps way off his usual beaten path
with this adaptation of that hoary old James Fenimore Cooper tale of
frontiersmen, Indians, Redcoats and the French -- the latter back when
they knew how to fight.
Chameleonic actor Daniel Day Lewis is totally convincing as Hawkeye, tracker, warrior, and adopted white son of Chingagchook, last of the Mohicans tribe. Along with adoptive brother, Uncas, the three are swept into the French and Indian war of 1757, treading lightly between the antagonists: French and Hurons on one side, British and colonials on the other, each faction potentially treacherous and deadly.
Mann doesn't waste time on exposition or character development; he just hurls us into the fast-paced, brutal action and the effect is like snagging the tail of a galloping racehorse and trying to hang on to the finish line. Madeline Stowe and Jodhi May, as sisters of the British major Munro, provide love interest for Hawkeye and Uncas, respectively. Steven Waddington is another Redcoat officer infatuated with Stowe, and he too shines as a 'bad guy' who's more complex than he at first seems. But the movie's almost stolen by Wes Studi as Magua, a Huron warrior who's allied himself with the French solely as a means to avenge himself on the white man. He's as mesmerizing and lethal as a cobra.
Technical qualities are exemplary, with special mention to the magnificent scenery of old-growth forestlands and mountains in North Carolina, and a superb score by Trevor Jones, with an assist by Randy Edelman.
Mann might not be the first guy you'd think of to stage an 18th-century period action/adventure/romance. But after seeing what he does here, no one can fail to be impressed by his range and bravura. This is a must-own.
The Last of the Mohicans is a timeless tale of the 18th century frontier and
the virtue and tragedy that results when the uniquely different cultures of
the French, English, Native Americans, and colonists collide. Based on
James Fenimore Cooper's literary genius, The Last of the Mohicans transports
the viewer back to a time of America's youth in a brilliant, mesmerizing
The story centers on an eclectic band of travelers, thrust together by fate and their attempt to escape danger and reach the besieged British fort, William-Henry. Deep within the western forests of colonial New York, Hawkeye, the white, adopted son and brother of the Mohicans, tries desperately to avoid an ever-increasing war. He is forced to act when, along with his Mohican father and brother, he encounters two endangered sisters trying to reach their father, a British colonel in command at the fort. Hawkeye, the rustic tracker, and Cora, the refined, eldest daughter, are naturally drawn together (much to the dismay of Major Heyward, an intriguing character who also vies for Cora's affections). Tensions and passions arise between the characters as a whirlwind of conflict and violence rages around them. In the end, each character must face heart-wrenching decisions that will affect their very lives, and the lives of those around them.
I especially love the way that the film depicts the perspectives of each of the groups involved. Whether the group is competing for military superiority or simple existence in their homeland, the viewer is given a true sense of their mindset in the midst of a great conflict. It is difficult to say one side or the other is completely to blame for the events that take place. Even the story's main antagonist, Magua (wonderfully portrayed by Wes Studi, Dances with Wolves) draws in a fair amount of empathy.
The Last of the Mohicans is a marvelous, visual adventure that thoroughly reveals the horrors of warfare, the wildness of a chaste frontier, and the fated and ill-fated romances of the characters involved.
James Fenimore Cooper's trusty old nineteenth century novel 'The Last
of the Mohicans' has provided a surprisingly sound springboard for a
film that tries and succeeds in restoring a profound respect for the
Native Americans. Yes, it is a story about the Indians and their
culture desecrated by the arrival of European entrepreneurs and
colonists all relating to Hawkeye/Nathaniel Poe (Daniel Day-Lewis), who
as a child was taken by the Mohawk tribe and raised by wise
Chingachgook (Russell Means) with the graceful skills and philosophy of
the Native Americans. And it is through his eyes that we are brought
into the universe through the eyes of the Indians.
The story is well known and needn't be elaborated once again. Suffice it say that Hawkeye becomes the scout who leads British family Munro including Colonel (Maurice Roëves) and his daughters Cora (Madeleine Stowe) and Alice (Jodhi May) into upstate New York and along the way find altercations with the French and with the Huron Indians, especially one Magua (Wes Studi) whose loathing for Munro's devastation of his village drives him to vengeance against the entire Munro family. Hawkeye and his ally Uncas (Eric Schweig) protect their lieges while steadfastly holding to the honor of their heritage. And of course during the harrowing events Hawkeye and Cora fall in love and Hawkeye takes great risks against his own life to ultimately defend Cora and her family.
Yes, there are many battle scenes, great reenactment of the scenery of the novel, and villains in all camps that provide the stormy progress of the novel. But it is in the quiet moments where Chingachgook speaks about the Great Spirit, the sanctity of nature, and his waiting to join the Great Council in the sky as the last of the Mohicans that the film's power is best communicated. The acting is very fine and the cinematography is splendid. This is a film worth seeing, one whose 117 minutes fly by leaving the viewer with a renewed respect for Native American philosophy. Grady Harp
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The year is 1757... The principal occupants of the region are Native
Americans and a great diversity of wild life...
It is the third year of the war between French and British, for the possession of the continent, somewhere on the frontier west of the Hudson River... The Mohicans are allied with the British while their old enemies the Hurons side with the French...
There, three men roam the forest making their living as frontier trappers and scouts... The first is Hawkeye, a superb frontiersman raised by the Mohawk, who can reload and fire a flintlock at full run; the second is his adopted father Chingachgook, the last of the Mohicans, and the third, his brother Uncas, 'a warrior swift and straight as an arrow shot in the sun.'
This trio seems have nothing to do with the early Colonial wars, until they come upon the vengeful Magwa and his Huron war party as they attempt to slaughter the Munro sisters, Cora and Alice, heading with a small regiment of redcoats to meet up with their father, Colonel Munro, at Fort William Henry...
Eventually, the compassionate Mohican family comes to the rescue with a spectacular style of fighting... The film takes full advantage of their graphic capabilities with incredibly fast and fluid fighting action and mind-blowing attack moves... Shortly thereafter, two love stories take place...
The three men lead the survivors to the English fort besieged by French forces and their Huron allies... The siege is a grand affair of roaring nighttime cannon and mortar attacks...
Michael Mann's historical romance film gives a realistic picture of the frontier life, and a vivid impression of the horrors of warfare in the wilderness at the time where the combatants often had time for one shot before being overpowered and reduced to hand-to-hand fierce combat... The movie is filled with scenes of incredible, brutal violence... It's warfare at a primal level...
Academy Award Winner Daniel Day Lewis also known as "The long rifle" is splendid as Hawkeye, the legendary warrior who encourages the Colonial militia to desert... He agrees to surrender in exchange for the life of two sisters and one British officer... He vows romantically to Cora that he will find her no matter how long it takes, no matter how far...
Madeleine Stowe manages to find in Cora's fiery character a balance between sensitivity and strength... War and tragedy swirl around her as she struggles to protect her man... Cora's attraction grows for the soft-spoken warrior, who shows marked differences when compared to Major Heyward...
Jodhi May is the blonde Alice, Cora's younger timid sister... By that long shot of her innocent face - a portrait of extreme torment and despair - we are all aware of her sufferings... We sense more pain than she can cope with... May has almost no lines, but her eyes, brimming with tears, are saying everything... No matter how much she wants to remain standing, she was retreating further and further from the ugly face of Magua... Her heart was crying out in anger... We all know that she will do anything than surrender... Her breakdown turns the scene into a willpower for revenge..
Russell Means is powerful as the Mohican elder Chingachgook... His running battle along that majestic ridge is some of the finest film-making we've seen in terms of action and intensity... There is no dialog in these moments but the scene leaves us certainly breathless..
Wes Studi is Magua, the infamous Huron Indian who always speaks of himself in the third person... He is fluent in English, French, and Huron... Magua is a strong, vibrant villain consumed with hatred... Magua plots the massacre of the retreating troops, their women and children...
Eric Schweig is Hawkeye's gentle and valiant brother Uncas... His quiet tenderness for Alice adds emotional weight to what could be passionate and unique... He asserts his mythic stature in a battle on a mountain top with Magua, not only to determine the winner in a struggle between good and evil, but also to decide the destiny of a race...
Steven Waddington is the last survivor of a troop of English soldiers caught by France's Indian allies... He is a jealous and snobbish officer who wants the radiant Cora at any price... Heyward brings some realistic touches of duality, showing his courage with one life-saving act...
Maurice Roëves seems impotent as Munroe... His blindness to the realities of "honor" brings destruction...
Patrice Chéreau is the French General Montcalm who gives Magua the go ahead to attack Munro's retreating army... He begs Munrow not to sign the death warrant of so many, and promises safe passage for the English so long as they return to England and fight no more on the continent...
The real inspiration of 'The Last of the Mohicans' is the extraordinary action sequences, the intensity of its music, and the exotic romanticism of such 1930's adventures as 'Charge of the Light Brigade', 'Gunga Din', and 'The Lives of a Bengal Lancer', where unshaken heroes never hesitate in the face of savage adversaries...
Michael Mann's camera exploits the beauty of the North Carolina mysterious Smoky Mountains, its verdant forests, and its white-water rapids and waterfalls... The opening shot of the fog misting through the Smokies are enough to take your breath away...
This film, for reasons that are not completely obvious to me, struck a
chord. It was in part the amazing location shots, partly the
characters, partly the music and the action sequences. As for the
(relatively) under-developed romance between the hero and heroine - all
I can say is that the line that Hawkeye delivers when Cora Munro
challenges this rough colonial who has the temerity to gaze upon her (a
colonel's daughter) and says (essentially): 'Who are you looking at?'
Hawkeye answers: 'You, Ma'am. I'm looking at you.' Priceless.
Interestingly, archeologists have recently excavated the site of Fort William Henry and discovered many interesting things, none of which contradict the events described by Fenimore Cooper. The attack on the defeated column in the woods also appears to be historically accurate.
This film, though imperfect, ranks with me as one of the best action movies of all time.
"The Last of the Mohicans" is a very good film that was basically ignored by everyone in 1992. Based on James Fenimore Cooper's novel of the same name, the movie is impressive in every way imaginable. Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe are best in the ensemble cast. Michael Mann's direction has rarely been better. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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