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Legends of the Fall (1994)

After the fall from innocence the legend begins.

Directed by:

Edward Zwick

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 133 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

The American west! The wild frontier! Sprawling landscapes, sky that stretches on forever, men smelling of cattle who talk about whisky a lot and wouldn’t think twice about wrestling a bear, old Indians making predictably wise comments: ‘Legends of the Fall’ has all of that and more yet, for all that, it seldom manages to truly capture the imagination. It’s probably because, as deadly serious as it aspires to be, it’s clearly more than a little silly.

It’s the tale of three brothers, eldest Alfred (Aidan Quinn), youngest Samuel (Henry Thomas) and difficult middle one Tristan (Brad Pitt). They live on a remote ranch with their dad (Anthony Hopkins), a jaded old colonel who’s been soured by the Government’s treatment of the natives and his wife’s decision to walk out on him.

Towards the beginning of the film, two events happen which are destined to turn each of their lives upside down. The first is Samuel’s arrival home with new fiancé Susannah (Julia Ormond). Susannah seems delighted with her new beau, until she spots Tristan: unshaven, sweating, caked in dirt, mullet billowing in the wind and almost certainly ponging a fair bit. What woman could resist? The second is the outbreak of the First World War, news of which stirs all three bruvs into joining the army and heading for Europe to help battle Gerry.

It would be unfair of me to give away too much of what happens from there on in, but let’s just say guns are fired, scalps are taken, Tristan goes bonkers (if he wasn’t already), Dad has a stroke, Aidan takes the hump, and Susannah confirms what we’d all already suspected about her: i.e. she’s got a pair of the old yo-yo drawers.

Director Edward Zwick demands over-the-top melodramatic performances from all of his cast, which is a shame because in many ways it’s quite simply uncalled for. All of these guys can act, and all of them are more than capable of telling a story without resorting to overly-manly hugs, rolling around in the dirt clenching their fists, and generally staring wildly into the face of nothing in particular. Mind you, perhaps Zwick knew that asking each of them to behave as if they were in a soap opera – which, essentially, they are – would be the only possible context in which any viewer could ever accept the at-times ridiculously far-fetched plotline.

Based on the novella by Jim Harrison, this rambling romantic epic covers the better part of a lifetime, but feels like it lasts even longer. Sure, much of it is pretty engrossing, but it shoots itself in the foot by passing up countless opportunities to actually finish. By the time the credits have finally started rolling, it’s more than outstayed its welcome on the screen.

It's Got: Some extremely fake-looking trench warfare.

It Needs: Pitt to have at least died his hair dark for the role. With his flowing blonde locks he looks NOTHING like the rest of his supposed family, leaving me half-expecting it to be revealed that his character was adopted. Let’s face it: it certainly wouldn’t be out-of-place in this soapy tale.

DVD Extras Just a trailer. But don’t worry: it doesn’t last an hour-and-a-half. Version reviewed: Legends of the Fall DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

Dances With Wolves

Summary

This twisting and turning romantic marathon has its share of strong points – but brevity and plausibility aren’t among them.

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