The first American hero.
Running Time: 112 minutes
US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15
Country: United States
Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans is the umpteenth adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel to hit the big screen. I’m not going to pretend like I’ve seen the 1920 or 1932 versions, or any of the others for that matter, so based on that extensive knowledge, I would say that this is without doubt the best of the lot.
The Last of the Mohicans is set amidst the bloody Eighteenth Century French and Indian War in which the French and British fought to control Colonial America. Colonial militias and Native Americans were forced to choose sides and so Hawkeye (Day Lewis) and his Mohawk family side with the British and Magua – a vengeful Huron with a score to settle – joins the French. After an English column is ambushed by Magua, Hawkeye is left to escort Major Duncan Heyward and his fiancee Cora over dangerous territory to her father, Colonel Munro (Roeves), who’s defending an under siege fort. Of course, the two long haired beauties (Hawkeye and Cora) fall in love and a battle for Cora’s love ensues that the ginger Englishman is never going to win.
To use an oft-overused description, this film is Epic. It’s got politics, a lovestory, heroes, villains, brutal violence, tenderness and one of the true great film scores. The great adventure story flies by and creates no dull moment as immaculately executed set pieces and magnificent scenery (I’m always partial to a bit of foliage) give the film it’s major flashes of brilliance. The climax is nailbiting and it’s the point where everything comes together, the emotion runs high and it even does enough to pluck the heartstrings of my cold dead heart.
The cast and director do a great job to add credibility to the kind of Hollywood epic that can often stray into cheesy melodrama and blatant over-emotive bias. Just when you think the mood is going decline into all out Brit-bashing Mel Gibson style, Mann skilfully reigns it in and keeps things balanced. Right down from the charismatic Daniel Day Lewis to the staid British soldiers with unfailingly stiff upper lips and well-characterised strong females, the performances are spot-on. Wes Studi steals the show as brooding Magua oozing menace and screen presence throughout.
It's Got: Gripping action, classic film score, excellent performance by Wes Studi, gorgeous cinematography
It Needs: To be watched with a box of Kleenex.
DVD Extras The clumsily titled "Director's Extended Edition" is a specially extended edition of TLOTM by the Director which includes four minutes extra footage. That's it. No wait, it also includes English AND Spanish subtitles. Honestly, Michael, you're spoiling us. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10
One of Hollywood’s great historical epic adventures floating in a sea of missed opportunities, Mann perfectly mixes action, romance and good characterisation. Also, only one of two films that have ever made me weepy. The other being Little Nicky – different reasons.