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Fair realism
badponymedicine19 February 2007
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.
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Definitely a must see movie
Philip Van der Veken29 November 2004
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.
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Jon Monsarrat review: compelling, intelligent, underrated!
johnnymonsarrat22 December 2002
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.
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This film is a must see
lizard-73 December 1998
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 theatres.

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.
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A magnificent movie!
driftrss227 March 2003
This movie blasted me in the theater! I had heard from friends & relatives 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.
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Poignant real-life drama mixed with great acting and directing
rollo_tomaso27 December 2000
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.
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Apted's best outing as a director
ipswich-222 May 2000
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.
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If you're not in a hurry, a great film.
NovaXII10 February 1999
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.
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Thunderheart : the American Indian lives on in American Soul
Logicaliman10 June 2005
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.
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Truly a must see
PUNISHER_10 January 2004
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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reasons you will love this enlightened modern western
barrwell9 September 2010
This is one of my personal favorites. I gave it a 9 as I don't think that it's a perfect film, though it is very close. The acting is great and it's heart is in the right place. There are dozens of plot descriptions available here, so i will just tell you why you might love this film....

  • a very honest and realistic portrayal of native Americans (by native Americans, like the excellent Graham Greene from 'Dances with Wolves').

  • excellent location cinematography, it was filmed in the badlands.

  • one of the most satisfying climactic scenes really feels good.

  • the film has a fairly strong anti-government sentiment to it...(if you're all gung-ho for the US government, this film may not be for you).

  • Thunderheart is based on actual events that happened on Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970s. John Trudell, who plays Jimmy Looks-twice (the FBIs main suspect), was actually there! He is a real real-life Sioux activist whose character is loosely-based on Leonard Peltier.

Some other quick tidbits, look for David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as a bartender in the bar room scene. I love the allegorical last shot of the film with Ray (Val Kilmer) in his car. Very fitting...which way to go? The whole film fits perfectly and usually I will say that many films wont appeal to every taste, however in the case of Thunderheart I will say this ....I don't know one person whose opinion I value who doesn't like this movie!

further note: If you like this one try watching the 1970 classic 'Little Big Man'.
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A Haunting Story That Will Stay With You For A Long Time!
surkult8 January 2009
I just watched Thunderheart for the first time the other day. I found out about it a while ago when I was searching for movies about Native Americans that was not biased towards the whites being heroes and totally innocent of wrong doing (like the older westerns).

So was this film worth watching for the reasons above and in general...Well....Wow! Just wow! What amovie! As many people on here already stated, this movie is totally underrated. The acting is overall fantastic and Val Kilmer and Graham Green gives truly memorable performances. The chemistry and development between Kilmer and Greens characters alone is a reason for seeing this movie. And Ted Thin Elk as Grandpa is really a joy to watch. The beautiful and vast badlands of South Dakota also plays an important role in the story. The suspense, action and the underlying deep emotions and problems are well balanced through out. It also gives you a little insight how life is on a modern Native American reservation, in this case the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

A very powerful and mesmerizing movie that stays with you for a long time!
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An Exegesis of Thunderheart
Gregg Wager28 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
After reading some of the reviews posted here of Thunderheart, I am happy to see so many are positive. A few have posted the type of negative review I might have expected more of, that is, that the movie falsely criticizes the American Government of malfeasance and fraud.

After seeing Thunderheart several times, I recognize many of the most controversial American Indian issues that have been interwoven into this parable that is set in South Dakota. It might be of interest to those who enjoy this movie exactly what those events were.

ARM—Thunderheart centers around an activist Native American movement based on the real organization called AIM (American Indian Movement). President Richard Nixon was genuinely angry when AIM marched onto Washington in 1972 and forcefully, but without any injuries, occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They were led by charismatic leaders such as Dennis Banks and Russell Means, and although their protests were not typically violent, Nixon made sure that they were treated like any other radical and violent organization of that era.

GOONs—Fred Ward plays the character "Jack Milton," who is based on the Tribal Counsel President of the Pine Ridge Reservation, Dick Wilson (1934-1990). The name of his private police force, Guardians of the Oglala Nation (or GOONs) was apparently too good to change for the film. The violent acts by GOONs depicted in the film—roadblocks, shootings, and the secret murders of Wilson's political enemies—are all based on true events, for which Wilson was impeached in 1973, although reelected again in 1974. It is also mentioned in the film that GOONs was financed by misdirected money that was intended for humanitarian purposes on the reservation.

Bear Creek Indian Reservation—This is a pseudonym for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Two dead agents, "family men"—At one point, Cooch mentions two FBI agents who were killed. This is based on agents Ronald A. Williams and Jack R. Coler, who were killed by multiple gunshot wounds on June 26, 1975. A detailed depiction of this shootout, along with the story of Leonard Peltier, who was ultimately convicted of the double murder, is in Peter Matthiessen's book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

Jimmy Looks Twice—Ray asks Cooch if the mission they're on is a "mop up," in other words, he suspects that Cooch is just trying to pin the killing on anyone, just to close the matter for good. Peltier was charged along with three other AIM members in the brutal slaying of Agents Williams and Coler (only Peltier was eventually convicted and is still serving a life sentence). As explained in Matthiessen, the controversy surrounds the way the two agents were first wounded by gunshots from afar, and then "finished off" at close range. The case against Peltier and three other AIM members appears to be nothing more than the FBI railroading some of the more visible activists. Nonetheless, efforts to get Peltier a new trial or possibly even a pardon (as was imminent at the end of Clinton's Presidency) have been unsuccessful. Jimmy is played by John Trudell, a longstanding activist in AIM.

Maggie Eagle Bear—Cooch scolds Ray by saying, "Now ARM people think she's an informant." Maggie is undoubtedly based on Anna Mae Pictou Aquash (1945-1975), who was a Micmac Indian (not Sioux) and never attended Dartmouth as Maggie did, but was a mother and AIM activist who was murdered under still mysterious circumstances. Cooch infers one of the theories, that AIM members killed her for being an FBI informant. Matthiessen suggests a scenario more akin to the movie, in which FBI agents might have even dragged their feet to identify her. The film also adds a second layer as a motive for the murder involving uranium mining which was contaminating the water.

Richard Yellow Hawk—An agent provocateur in a wheelchair, Richard adds yet another layer to the plot, in that the FBI was planting its own agents into activist organizations like AIM to gather information and discredit them. Although the FBI program COINTELPRO was discontinued in 1971, parts of it did continue into the 1970s to monitor AIM.

Red Deer Table—The issue of contaminated water due to uranium mining, or of strip-mining in general, is most prominent not on the Pine Ridge Reservation, but on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. The mining companies, with the help of the Federal Government, invented a Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute, in order to move Navajo off of coal-enriched land so they could strip-mine it. That Cooch is motivated by the land deal adds this geographically remote Indian issue to this tale.

Thunderheart—Although there are 146 people buried at Wounded Knee, history records that over 300 Lakota men, women and children were killed there on December 29, 1890 (as Grandpa Sam Reaches explains to Ray). The famous Sioux chief Sitting Bull was killed 14 days earlier. When Ray visits the Wounded Knee Monument, he reads "19. Thunderheart," the name of the Indian he is supposed to be the reincarnation of, as the 19th name listed in the mass grave. Actually, the 19th name on the monument, according to some photos on the Internet, is an Indian named Swift Bird.

Above all, this film does not claim to be nonfiction. The opening disclaimer says: "This story was inspired by events that took place on several American Indian reservations during the 1970s." Recently, there has been a strong effort from the politically right to show that Peltier really was the close-range executioner of the two FBI agents and that Acquash was murdered by AIM members because she knew this. Although this bizarre version of events has all the twisted logic of Barack Obama's Kenyan birth certificate, it is being employed in a new trial against two AIM activists, John Graham and Richard Marshall. A third, homeless man, Fritz Arlo Looking Cloud, has already been convicted in 2004 for the murder of Acquash, and his strange testimony is being used against Graham and Marshall.
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My country tis of thy people you're dying (Buffy Sainte-Marie)
dbdumonteil6 August 2006
Michael Apted has made a poignant beautiful film on behalf of the Indian People.The only problem is the casting of Val Kilmer as a "civilized" Sioux.It's an excellent screenplay which mixes real life events and fiction.The actors (G.Greene,S.Shepard ,S.Tousey) are all excellent and the director succeeds in making us feel that the Indian's power is invisible,somewhere in the wind ,that their magic eludes the white man.Apted has really a sense of mystery which superbly shows in Kilmer's nightmare or in Grandpa 's prophetic words.And when all seems lost,the panoramic shot and the big tracking out the director uses are worthy of the best westerns.

In one of her songs "Bury my heart at Wounded Knee" (on the "Coincidences and likely stories "album,1992 too) Indian Buffy Sainte -Marie sings:

"My girlfriend Annie Mae talked about uranium

Her head was filled with bullets

And her body dumped

The FBI cut off her hands

and told us She died of exposure."
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A movie with deep, deep emotion.
frekylingus13 August 2005
The first time I saw this movie, I was about 12 years old and I instantly liked it. But it wasn't until I was older and had seen the movie about ten times, did I really understand the magnitude of the plot. This movie goes further than action, drama or suspense. It tells a story of a people western culture has long viewed as the enemy. Only, it tells it from their side. And if you are a stereo-typical "proud" American, this movie may be a bit disturbing in the fact that after watching it, the American government seems to be the enemy. The movie reveals only a fraction of the oppression that Native Americans have been exposed to throughout modern history. And being based on a true story only strengthens the emotion of not only the story line, but the acting as well. Val Kilmer is one of my favorite actors. He's played some great roles. But I believe this is his most underrated movie to date. Judging by the plot, mainstream American audiences we never going to relate to this movie like they could "Top-Gun" or "The Doors". Still, he gives his all throughout the whole movie - which more than anything is a statement. The car-chases, gun-fights and aerial camera-work are just filler or eye candy supporting what should really be focused of the many stories of suffering and oppression cast down upon the Natives of this country. That which so few in this country even care to know about.
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Awesomely authentic, thought-provoking and important.
tekhelet21 December 1999
My mother, sisters and I are enrolled Tribal members of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where my mother was born and raised. This movie is quite authentic in its treatment of Lakota (Sioux) culture and traditions without getting caught up in romanticism. Portrayals of our sacred Ghost Dance and other ceremonies give the viewer a glimpse into our heritage and spirituality, while he fact-based storyline takes the viewer on a ride into 1970's reservation life complete with FBI cover ups and abuse of power. Seeing this movie just might make you an activist!
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A Murder Mystery and a Journey of Self-Discovery
purplewolf13 September 2005
What's not to like about Thunderheart. It's a murder mystery steeped in American Indian Mysticism, an journey of self-discovery, a budding love story, and lesson about honor and dignity. I have seen Thunderheart eight times and each time it moves me. Many pictures fade or disappoint with repeated viewings. Thunderheart thanks to a tight script, good direction, great story and fine acting holds its power. Val Kilmer, controlled and vulnerable as Ray Levoi, gives us one of his best performances and Graham Greene is wonderful as the hip impassioned Indian Policeman, Walter Crow Horse. But Thunderheart really belongs to Sheila Tousey and Ted Thin Elk. Tousey has beauty and strength to die for and every time she appears on screen she is riveting whether she's holding a shotgun or laughing affectionately at Agent Levoi. You ever wondered who you are? What kind of story you're living in and how's it all going to end? Just ask Ted Thin Elk. Looking into his eyes, getting lost in the wonderful wrinkles of his face, he guides you to amazing discoveries about the ways of life in general and your life in particular. His character, Grandpa Sam Reaches, is the ultimate mentor - wise, caring, and with a disarming sense of humor that lowers your defenses so you can see clearly for the first time. And if all this is not enough for you, I'll just mention...there is a dog, a faithful, smart, scruffy dog who you would adopt in a heartbeat. If this movie doesn't get you one way it will get you another.
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The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth
Lucky-6321 July 1999
This is a real story about real events. It's been "fictionalized" to avoid lawsuits. They took place not that long ago. The story hasn't ended. The book that detailed the story was censored by the US courts for over a decade, as a result of a suit by the ex- and present Governor of South Dakota. Once you've seen the movie, learn the rest of the story by reading "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" by Peter Matthiessen. Viking Books. And see the other movie about the story, "Incident at Oglala"... also directed by Apted and produced by Robert Redford.
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An overlooked gem
EBK23 January 1999
I watch this film about twice a year. Far superior to the overrated Dances With Wolves, this is a film about beginnings rather than endings.

As Apted points out at the begining of the film, this is based on actual events on Indian land, but the reality doesn't interfere with the story. The story is only peripherally about the actions of the US government and Native North Americans, but rather is about tradition, roots and the power to affect the future that their rediscovery brings. Val Kilmer's best film, Graham Greene is brilliant, and John Trudell's small part is essential to the film. The only reasonable comparison is to Bogart's rediscovery of himself in Casablanca.
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" When I was young, I didn't want to be an Indian, I always played Gary Cooper "
thinker169125 March 2009
Every now and then a film reaches into the soul of one's ancestry. This film " Thunderheart" did so with me. I found it tugging my heart as Indian chants boomed in the background. The story is taken both from the headlines of the National news and films of the A.I.M. Using documented facts, the story concerns the multiple murders on the Lacota Sioux Reservation in 1992. Two men, one a full blooded (When both parents are Native Americans) Sioux Indian, (Graham Greene) called Walter Crow Horse, the other an F.B.I. agent of Mixed Native Indian Heritage, Ray Levoi (Val Kilmer) are thrown together by F.B.I director William Dawes (Fred Thompson) to solve several federal murders on 'the Rez'. Crow Horse is a natural detective and searches for clues by using his instincts. Levoi reminds him, he comes from a land where modern methods will help him discover the real killer. Crow Horse has an aid in an old Medicine Man called Grampa Sam Reaches (Ted Thin Elk). Levoi has a veteran agent called Frank Coutelle (Sam Shepard) and Jack Milton (Fred Ward) who seems to be more of a hindrance as a 'Goon.' Also helping Levoi is Sheila Tousey who plays Maggie Eagle Bear, a resident teacher and social activist. What begins as a routine inquiry, soon has all the characters squabbling over jurisdiction, methods and directional scope of the investigation. For Levoi it's a personal revelation as the past beacons his Indian Ancestory. The movie is an intriguing combination of detective work, national pride and an inner awaking for both the characters and the audience, as it's got what it takes to become a Classic. Good film****
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Important and entertaining
mtenga2 September 2005
This is a film all should see. The depiction of the native Americans and the hardships that they face was true to life. They were portrayed as real people with good sides and faults rather than the stereo typical clichés.

The "conquering" of the Indians and the appropriation of their land by the white people was not conveniently ignored or falsely sanitised like you might see in a 1950's movie.

There was good acting all around and Val Kilmer shows that he is more than just a macho pretty type by bringing some depth and honesty to the role. I was touched when he admitted to having been ashamed of his heritage when he was a child. That will ring true for many of us brought up in minorities surrounded by a white majority.

Grahame Greene was the outstanding show but the normally likable Fred Ward's role was under developed in my opinion. Sam Shepard was good as well.

Mysticism, politics and cultural interaction all come to play in an eventually uplifting movie. The end "trade" scene and awakening of the Kilmer character left me feeling good.
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What the......?
Pesto15126 August 2005
I accidentally saw this movie on HBO last night. I thought it would be a silly Hollywood piece of trash, but it was terrific!! I am a fan of Graham Greene's and I can't believe I had never heard of this movie. Same with John Trudell. I have seen and read all about the Incident at Oglala and I didn't think it could be retold with as much passion and attention to realistic detail as it was. I loved everything about it and I will buy it to watch again and again. Why was it never publicized the way it deserved?

I have just been told by this site that I have to write ten lines of text in my review. I really don't have much more to say except, if you get the chance, SEE THIS MOVIE!! There, did I meet my quota?
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A Thrilling Masterpiece
TheDoomSong5 March 2003
Thunderheart is one of the best thrillers I've ever seen in my life. Michael Apted does good work as the director. The score from Horner is also very listenable, plus it features Val Kilmer (one of my favourite actors) giving the strongest performance ever seen of him. The story about a FBI-agent (Kilmer) who investigates in a murder of an Indian is very believeable, there is always tense in the story, not too much not too less action and a mystical background. The showdown is absolutely brilliant. So watch this movie, it's a masterpiece!
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Thunderheart is great !!!
Stef Vanstiphout7 August 2006
After I've seen "Dances with wolves" I became interested in movies on Native Americain topics, actually it was the performance of Graham Greene that got me hooked. His convincing performance and charisma must have contributed to the (outrageously late) gained respect for N.A. in Hollywood. In Thunderheart he's at his best as well, with a great sense of humor. Val Kilmer's acting is superb. He really convinces being of N.A. origin. The plot is really captivating and even when you've seen this film 3 times, it still is most entertaining and dramatic. I enjoyed the impact of the dramatic magic moments ("It's Thunderheart's blood that runs through your heart") Lastly, I can't forget the charming Grandpa Sam Reaches (Chief Ted Thin Elk) who is magical, mysterious and very funny at the same time. I really enjoyed his acting: "You're like a bunch of old women, come and watch TV" (Mr. Magoo probably)!
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Fulfilling A Destiny
bkoganbing20 June 2010
There's been a murder on a Sioux Indian reservation in South Dakota and it's connected to reservation politics. Assistant FBI director Fred Dalton Thompson thinks it would be a good idea to specifically assign an agent with an Indian and specifically a Sioux heritage to investigate the homicide, figuring that the insular Sioux might better cooperate with him. Agent Val Kilmer fills the bill and he's assigned to one of the bureau's top operatives Sam Sheppard who reluctantly takes him along. Even Sheppard who's a loner sees that Kilmer just might be useful here.

To say that there is more on this reservation than meets the eye is putting it mildly. And Kilmer finds he has a destiny here and he does in fact solve the case with the help of reservation cop Graham Greene.

When referring to Indians in the USA their various tribes are called this or that nation. Calling them a nation as far as Thunderheart is concerned is correct in more ways than one. The reservations have their own autonomy in a lot of things, but they are also covered under the Constitution of these United States although you wouldn't think so the way tribal chief Fred Ward runs things. In fact the scenes of his reservation police disregarding basic fundamental rights could come out of some third world nation. That is the scariest part of Thunderheart and the part you will remember best.

There's not just murder here, there's corruption on a grand scale and that is the destiny that Val Kilmer has in this film, to root it out and expose it. Just what is going on and who is involved you have to watch Thunderheart for.

Although this is a part Lou Diamond Phillips should have played, Val Kilmer does fine in the lead. Another memorable role is that of Sheila Tousey, schoolteacher and Indian activist who has a good idea of what's going on and makes no bones to Kilmer about where his loyalties should lie.

Sam Sheppard's role as an FBI agent is one that never would have seen the light of day if J. Edgar Hoover was alive. You'll see what I mean when you watch Thunderheart.

Thunderheart is a fine drama, nicely photographed on location with fine performances uniformly from the cast. We can only hope that tribal leaders like Fred Ward are some kind of aberration among the American Indians.
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