Image via Rotten Tomatoes
Directed by Michael Mann
Written by John L. Balderston, Paul Perez, Daniel Moore
Cinematography Dante Spinotti
Music by Trevor Jones, Randy Edelman
Produced by Michael Mann, Hunt Lowry
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot, Gangs of New York, There Will Be Blood), Madeleine Stowe (12 Monkeys, We Were Soldier), Jodhi May, Wes Studi, Russell Means, Eric Schweig, Steven Waddington
It is a time of war. The year is 1757, and the fight for the American colonies between France and England is raging. Many Indians have chosen sides with most fighting for the French, but there are three who haven’t picked either side.
(Means), along with his two sons Uncas (Schweig) and Hawkeye (Day-Lewis), are staying out of the fray, and plan to head west to Cantuckee (Kentucky) to avoid the ugliness and dangers of war. They strongly believe in freedom and personal responsibility. They are beholden to no one, and make no plans to be any time soon. But times are Chingachgook changing.
There is a faction of American settlers who seek to fill their county’s levy for the British crown in support of the war, but will only do so on the condition they are allowed to return to their homes if the French and Indians lay siege to their homes. The British consent without any thoughts on keeping their word. Despite Hawkeye’s misgivings about sending men to support a sovereign entity 3,000 miles away, the militia go to support Colonel Munroe at Fort McHenry, but they are not the only ones traveling to the fort.
Munroe’s two daughters, Alice (May) and Cora (Stowe) seek to be reunited with their father, and are accompanied on their journey by Major Duncan (Waddington), and Magua (Studi), a Huron scout sent from Munroe. Unfortunately, the trip will not go smoothly, and this is where our main characters intertwine.
Scenery and Score:
The Last of the Mohicans can be summed up in one word: beautiful. The scenery is gorgeous with the setting taking place in the mountains of North Carolina. Dangerous waterfalls, rippling brooks, and galloping wildlife make this film a real pleasure to take in for any movie lover.
As gorgeous as the scenery was, the score was even better. I’ll see your Star Wars and Gone With the Wind scores and raise you The Last of the Mohicans score. I mean no disrespect to the other films, and fully understand that the aforementioned movie scores are far more popular and are timeless classics. My opinion is that The Last of the Mohican’s score is underrated and tops them both. Perhaps, I’d even put it as one of the best of all time. If you don’t believe me, just listen to the track “The Kiss”. On there, you will find a moving, somber, driving, cello solo for the ages. Not only that, but the “Main Title” track has a superb and powerful trumpet melody that even inspired me to want to play the trumpet! Believe me; if you’re not interested in the story, just watch it for the score, you won’t be disappointed.
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Hawkeye, who was taken in by Chingachgook as a baby who he raised as his own, is the story’s main character. Played by Day-Lewis, it’s hard to ignore Hawkeye’s character while on camera. American militia, British officers, and Huron Indian all have one thing in common: they listen to Hawkeye when he speaks. His command of any situation and calm, determined demeanor make him noticeable to any around him. He is a leader, albeit grudgingly, and any man would follow him to death in battle. Not only does Hawkeye display a cool head when a fight rages, he also knows when to make the first move – especially when his interest is peaked. His interest is especially peaked when it comes to Cora Munroe, who captures his eye upon their first meeting. Few words are spoken between the two, so we mostly have to rely upon eye contact throughout the film. Hawkeye displays perhaps the most confidence when gazing upon Cora, who at first, finds his staring uncomfortable, but eventually decides to return the favor. During one of the more calm moments of the film, Cora poses Hawkeye the question: “What are you looking at, sir?” “Looking at you, miss”, he replied. Basically, the entire character of Hawkeye is summed up in those four words. When he knows what he wants, he goes after it.
The eldest daughter of Colonel Munroe, Cora is a strong and determined woman. Growing up in the lap of luxury in England, one would expect her to be too dainty for the American frontier, but make no mistake, she’s one tough cookie. She is placed into awkward situations by Major Heyward who insists on calling upon her even when she doesn’t show interest. Don’t forget that this is during a time when women weren’t supposed to have an opinion when it came to whom they married. Not only is her future decided for her, but she will face horrific loss and emotional stress. Much like Hawkeye, Cora goes after what she wants, and about midway through the story, she finds exactly what she wants.
Image via Time Out
Magua is the essential, butthole villain that every good movie needs. Possibly the most interesting character in the film, Magua has a dark history, riddled with death and hatred. His family was murdered years ago by British soldiers who were under the command of Colonel Munroe, so Magua has decided that his hatchet will not be buried until it is stained with Munroe’s blood and all of his seed has been exterminated. He is a ruthless man and a cunning fighter, so you had better not cross him unless you are after a fight.
The Last of the Mohicans, Chingachgook is the biological father of Uncas, and foster father of Hawkeye. A man of very few words, Chingachgook relies upon his sons to do most of the talking when dealing with others. Showing much prudence, he sent both of his sons to school at an early age, and taught them the wherewithal to survive on the frontier. He exercises restraint numerous times to allow his sons to make their own decisions – something he has taught them their entire lives, but at the end of the story, he will throw aside restraint, and take up his war club.
Image via Five Minute History
The Last of the Mohicans is done so well that you will feel the joy, pain, and exhilaration that each character will experience. The film is intense and has few moments of ease; however, those few moments allow you to soak in the beauty of the characters’ surroundings and the magnitude of each situation in which they find themselves. Having been released twenty-five years ago, it’s safe to say the film’s production, story, and acting have aged well, and I imagine that twenty-five years from now, I’ll still enjoy it.
I’m going to give The Last of the Mohicans a 92%.