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Many have dismissed this film as 'too Hollywood' or fictionalized. Many don't understand just what went on in 'The Incident at Oglala'. Others wonder why it was so under-promoted. The US Government doesn't want anything promoted that shows their VERY dark side. Many US citizens do not know, do not want to know, or refuse to believe that their government does the exact same things that we chastise other governments for. I'm Native American myself (Cherokee/Powhattan), a tribal volunteer, and a Native Activist. The FBI has a file on me. My phone is tapped. This is what happens when you're involved in activities that reveal what your government is really up to. Yes, it is a 'fictionalized' account, but if you're familiar with the story, you know that Fred Ward is former chairman Dick Wilson, who helped the US Government to draw attention away from the fact that he was selling off 1/8 of the Pine Ridge Reservation for uranium mining, without the rest of the people knowing. Jimmy Looks Twice is vaguely based on Leonard Peltier (though I don't think anyone has claimed Leonard could shapeshift), and Maggie Eagle Bear is an excellent description of Anna Mae Aquash, who was murdered--the FBI tried to have her illegally buried under an assumed name, then just as Jane Doe, and because she had distinctive jewelry on her hands that couldn't be removed due to post-mortem swelling, they CUT OFF HER HANDS...sent them off allegedly for 'fingerprinting', and what do you know? They got lost. The book by Peter Mathiessen, "In the Spirit Of Crazy Horse" was kept from publishment for 8 years by the government who did not want the story out. Some of my fave lines? Cooch's "ARM is on it's last legs, Ray..." And Crowhorse's reaction to Ray's threat about withholding information, "So sue (Sioux) me..." And the scenery is so stark and beautiful. I cry every time I watch it. Fast action shoot-em-ups despite a yard full of kids? It happened. That's not Hollywood. The FBI was shooting up an 'encampment' full of women and kids at Oglala. They don't care. The only good Indian is a dead Indian. It's been this way for 500 years, and it continues today.
I really wonder why this movie is rated rather low on IMDb (6.5/10
right now). This is a very good movie with a great, but disturbing
message, perhaps even more because it was based on real events.
It tells the story of an Indian reservation in South Dakota in the seventies. There seems to be some kind of war going on between traditionalist and progressive Indians. The traditionalists are accused of a murder on an important member of the progressive group and two FBI agents will investigate it. As their investigation goes on, one of them will find out what the real reasons are why he is there...
This is a very good thriller with a lot of Indian mystic influences, but who doesn't close an eye for the reality these people were living in. It has been based on true events, but has been changed slightly because of law suits, but it still shows how the Indians were seen and treated at the time. It's definitely a must see movie and therefor I reward it with an 8/10.
What's with the low rating for this film? Thunderheart is a superb
thriller about Native American Indians. It's well-acted, well-paced,
and we get a great sense of tension and high stakes throughout the
film. Remaining respectful to the indians, but not getting syrupy or
over-glorifying it, it's quite educational about culture. I found it to
be intellectual as well as a good trip. And a great job by Val Kilmer.
Who should see this film:
-- action/thriller types
-- drama types with an interest in Native American Indians
I'll give "Thunderheart" a well-deserved 8 out of 10.
This movie, based upon a true incident at the Oglala Indian Reservation in South Dakota, seamlessly combines great acting, much of it by native Americans, taut direction, and delicious dialogue. It is thought-provoking, enlightening, well-paced, and always entertaining. As poignant a movie as I've ever seen, I rate this alongside L.A. Confidential, Life Is Beautiful, as one of the Three top movies of the 1990's. Val Kilmer has never been better and Graham Greene is simply magnificent, even better than he was in Dances with Wolves. This is a must-see for the entire family.
This movie blasted me in the theater! I had heard from friends &
how beautiful the Badlands were. The cinematography of this film brought
that beauty directly at me. The script was concise & smart. I enjoy
scripts that require my attention to there detail.
Most of all, the actors excelled in their parts. Val Kilmer handled the transitions perfectly: from disinterested agent to nonbeliever to skeptic to reluctant believer to full realization without a seam! I really like Fred Ward and hated his character in this movie. Sam Shephard provided his consistent great performance. I think it was the first time I had seen Graham Greene. He turned in a fabulous performance.
This film insures that you question everything you learned from a textbook. It brings you in, shows you another viewpoint, illustrates the other side of the story, and demands that you think before you take a side. I paid to see this film twice in the theater and bought the DVD when it was released. I watch it regularly.
If I had to pick another film that had similar power, it would be "In Pursuit Of Honor" with Don Johnson & Craig Sheffer.
Michael Apted has had a few indifferent movies, but Thunderheart is in my
view his best. Apted spotlights the tribal Indian community in Badlands,
South Dakota, exploring the mysticism of the Sioux culture and examining the
impact of its forced co-existence with the modern American way of life. This
juxtaposed mix of two cultures is best exemplified by Val Kilmer, who plays
a young, brash and cocky FBI investigator with Sioux blood sent "back home"
to investigate a homicide.
The murder investigation proves to be the tip of the iceberg, revealing a greater conspiracy to steal the land away from the Sioux. There is a surreal edge to the movie throughout, balanced well with an engaging and gripping story line. Kilmer is at his best here, aided well by a great supporting cast. The action was thick and fast, surrounded by an aura of mystical magic that was best supplied by James Horner's thumping soundtrack. For two hours I was enthralled. This is an excellent movie.
Maybe it's because this film followed in the shadow of "Dances With
Wolves"-- or maybe it just wasn't marketed well-- but it's beyond me and all
those I know who have seen it why this movie didn't do better in the
All the pieces are there: great actors (and acting), amazing characters, excellent cinematography, a believable, engrossing, and simply wonderful storyline, mystery, suspense, comedy. I did not want this movie to end! A well loved movie by many. Rent it now.
Watching Val Kilmer execute a brilliant performance is not only
entertaining, to say the least, but moving.
Kilmer comes to grips with his 1/4 Sioux background and with the forces of "civilization" as an FBI agent. The forces of civilization are the infamous greed and corruption, or "special interests" as some politicians prefer to use. The Sioux are accused of proud but reckless. They're right about the pride. What is omitted by the forces of civilization is the honor of these people.
Particularly engaging is the mysticism of the Sioux. FBI agent Ray Levoi (Kilmer) is gradually absorbed by this mysticism (as can be the audience), and opens greater insight into the real conflict.
While probably the majority of Americans cannot claim Native American heritage, surely, the land can. And belonging to the land, as Americans, that heritage must be ours as well. This film inspires one to feel such thoughts and feelings, especially if we feel attachment to (and presumably, love for) this land, America.
One most interesting observation about owls: one character says to Levoi, the FBI agent, "the owl is the messenger; it means somebody's going to die." That is a common interpretation in Mexico too, surely brought down by its Indians, the common vision there being that of a barn owl (lechuza, in Spanish).
This mysticism is very powerful in this film. I recommend it for quality acting performances, and high spirituality.
I had to go with a 9 for this one, because it is a bit long and sleepy, plus
the viewer must pay very close attention to follow it. The first time I saw
it, at age 17, I didn't really get it, but I had been impacted by it's
honest portrayal of the reservation.
Now that you've been warned, I recommend it. I had immediate respect for the Indians I had always considered worthless. We cannot expect them to succeed in a world they didn't create, nor particularly wish to participate in. The intelligence level of the Indian characters is admirable, complimentary, and believable. I'm going to watch it again tomorrow.
Val Kilmer is superb as usual, and Graham Greene should have gotten an Oscar, but sometimes there aren't enough to go around. The cinematography is just amazing. If you like movies that meet you half way and take energy to watch, you'll be impressed. If you liked Titanic, don't bother.
I would like to start out by saying that this is one of my favorite films. I thought Val Kilmer was amazing as Ray Lavoy. This movie is based on some real life events; however, not everything in this movie is a real life event, due to lawsuits. Graham Greene also had an outstanding role in this movie. I must say that this movie is a must see, also this movie shows you what things one should not take for granted. If you liked this movie, check out Skinwalkers.
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