Synopsis: British and French troops battle in colonial America, with aid from various native American war parties. The British troops enlist the help of local colonial militia men, who are reluctant to leave their homes undefended. A budding romance between a British officer’s daughter and an independent man who was reared as a Mohican complicates things for the British officer, as the adopted Mohican pursues his own agenda despite the wrath of different people on both sides of the conflict. (From IMDb)
Review: Every now and then a movie comes along that I cannot stop watching. When I was 17, The Last of the Mohicans was that movie. I think I watched every day for two weeks before my obsession faded. And I have not watched it since. ] I still listen to the soundtrack, but have no desire to watch the film ever again. The Last of the Mohicans is based on the novel of the same name by James Fenimore Cooper. I gave the novel a chance and called it quits after the fifth page. Convoluted is an understatement. Mann’s movie takes the key points of the novel and crafts a nearly brand new narrative. The result is an excellent, albeit romanticized, take on frontier life in early America.
The year is 1757. The British and French are at war to determine who will gain control over eastern North American. The Mohicans allied with the British. And the Hurons, the Mohicans’ enemy, sided with the French. Enter Nathaniel/Hawkeye, the white adopted son of the Mohican Chingatchgook. Hawkeye tries to stay out of the conflict. But becomes embroiled in it after rescuing a British Colonel’s daughters from a Huron ambush. Hawkeye, and his brother, escort the women back to Fort William Henry, which is under siege by the French. When the fort falls, the Huron choose to ambush the retreating British. This chain of events causes Hawkeye and brother to become involved in the British/French conflict. Life changing event ensue.
In spite of the convoluted source material, the movie is elegant and engaging. The Last of the Mohicans is a beautiful looking film. The cinematography is almost nostalgic in its depiction of wide open, undeveloped land. Only the frequent ambushes, skirmishes, and battles punctuate the serene countryside.
Part of the charm of this movie is the attention to background detail. There are outfits boasting intricate beadwork, traditional tattoos, historically accurate uniforms, weapons, and canoes. Mann does an excellent job capturing and depicting the numerous cultures that existed in 1757 America. Though some of the music sounded a tad more Celtic than Native American. It is a hauntingly nuanced soundtrack that complements the action on screen. Soundtracks can make or break a film. In this case, I think the soundtrack elevated the narrative from “good” to “memorable”.
The center of the narrative is the identity of Hawkeye and his relationship with Cora Munro one of the women he rescues. Hawkeye struggles to explain his identity and life until close to the end. Though, one could argue that the never found a place to belong until the end. Anyways, Hawkeye is viscerally brought to life by the dominating presence of Daniel Day-Lewis. In one of his best performance, Day-Lewis is the right mix of fierce and graceful body language. I think body language is a lost art in modern Hollywood. But Day-Lewis does a phenomenal job portraying a frontiersman/Mohican warrior. Cora Munro, played by Madeleine Stowe, is his polished, genteel match. Independent and outspoken, Cora is a great foil to Hawkeye’s rougher demeanor. Overall, this is a solid movie that I highly recommend.