As the British and French soldiers battle for control of the American colonies in the 18th century, the settlers and native Americans are forced to take sides. Cora and her sister Alice unwittingly walk into trouble but are reluctantly saved by Hawkeye, an orphaned settler adopted by the last of the Mohicans.
Death and honour are thought to be the same, but today I have learned that sometimes they are not. The Last of the Mohicans is directed by Michael Mann who also co-adapts the screenplay with Christopher Crowe from James Fenimore Cooper's novel of the same name. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Eric Schweig, Jodhi May, Steven Waddington and Wes Studi. Music is scored by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman and cinematography by Dante Spinotti. 1757 during the French and Indian War, Hawkeye (Lewis), a white man who was adopted by the Mohicans, finds himself on a perilous journey to escort a couple of British sisters to their father's fort. This journey brings him, and his companions, into conflict with Magua (Studi), a sadistic Huron warrior seeking revenge on the girls' father. Inspired by the Randolph Scott film of the same name made in 1936, Michael Mann gives his all to create a stirring classical epic fit to sit in the company of the historical greats of old. Visually it's a treat of some magnitude, where aided by Spinotti, Mann frames his characters in the glorious vistas provided by the North Carolinas. For those with a bent for historical narratives, Mann's film also is not found wanting, in fact it's a cerebral delight. There's romantic strands that sit right in the colourful quilt, action expertly staged and handled by the talented director and the cast, led by a superbly athletic and serious Day-Lewis, are impressive and doing justice to the requisite characters written on the page, and the musical score enhances mood with swirling beauty coupling with primitive potency that wraps itself snugly around the story. Mann gets all the key ingredients right, but it's his ability to balance the human drama with the energised action that is most impressive. The film is also thankfully devoid of boorish filler, this is a troubled time in history, with much political activity and complex racial manoeuvres, but Mann doesn't need to fill the screen with political posturing and drawn out speeches. We know all we need to know about the period in question, but the story is kept intimate, the focus on a small group of people, of whose fate we most assuredly have interest in. While on the edges of the frame we know we are witnessing the death of an era, for better or worse on different sides of the coin. Also pays to note that Mann's well known penchant for the meticulous is evident as well, for he details the native characters with considerable care. It's not flawless, accents fluctuate, the odd fake look slips into the production design and the director does what many American directors do, they come dangerously close to caricaturing their British officers, but this is still great heroic escapism tinged with romanticism. Something for everyone who loves classical cinema in fact. 9/10