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Dances With Wolves (1990)

In 1864 one man went in search of the frontier…and found himself

Directed by:

Kevin CostnerKevin Costner

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 173 minutes

UK Certificate: 15


Kevin Costner stars as Lt John Dunbar, a Union soldier who goes on a suicidal ride after a leg injury that leads the doctors to want to amputate. Accidentally, he finds himself leading the troops to victory on the battlefield against the Confederates. As a reward, he is given the medical care he needs and allowed to choose his next posting. He opts to serve on the Western Frontier, which he wants to see before it disappears. Reporting to his new deserted post, he does not realise that the last two men who know where he is are now dead, and no relief is coming.

Alone in the middle of nowhere, with just his horse and a wild wolf for company, Dunbar starts putting his post in order when he encounters the native Lakota Sioux for the first time – they persist in trying to take his horse, with comic results. Soon he is trying to communicate, attempting to make friends with Kicking Bird (Graham Greene) and the taciturn Wind in His Hair (Rodney Grant). He saves the life of a stolen white woman living with the Sioux called Stands With a Fist (Mary McDonnell), who can speak a little English, and who eventually starts to translate his speech for the Sioux. Increasingly, Dunbar spends more time away from his post, learning about the life of his new friends, and falling in love with Stands With a Fist. However, as an Indian sympathiser his fellow soldiers view him as a traitor and will stop at nothing to track him down.

This is a film of contrasts – the damaging influences of white settlement against the beauty of the landscape, the battle between the white abuse of natural resources and the Sioux living within them, the extreme violence of war against the gentleness of Sioux love and family (and Dunbar's own nature), and the constrained life of Dunbar the soldier against the emotional freedom he gains as he becomes Dances with Wolves. Costner is outstanding as the soldier turned Indian, both touching and amusing by turns, and also demonstrates his not insignificant abilities as a director. The cinematography is outstanding, with enormous attention to detail being obvious in every frame, and the score for the film is the perfect addition that makes it complete.

It's Got: 7 Oscars including Best Film and Best Director. Some of the most incredible scenery ever filmed.

It Needs: To avoid showing the Lakota Sioux as all good and the whites and Pawnee as nearly all bad.

DVD Extras Commentaries by Kevin Costner are comparatively rare, making this one much appreciated. Extras: Director’s commentary, Theatrical trailer, Featurette, Kevin Costner profile. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10


Braveheart, Legends of the Fall, The Last of the Mohicans (1992)


This is a fine film, beautifully made, with great attention to detail. One of the outstanding films of the late 20th century, everyone should see it and enjoy it.

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