Based on James Fenimore Cooper‘s acclaimed novel, the Last of the Mohicans is a romance set amidst the French and Indian War. The film is simply riveting and boasts worthy performances and breathtaking action sequences. Director Michael Mann gives us a film with spectacular scenery and fills it with captivating scenes, led by the legendary talents of Daniel Day-Lewis.
Mann captures the sweeping elegance of the frontier, as we see the protagonist, Hawkeye, swiftly chasing an animal in the thick of nature. The film takes in the tranquility of the locations, and Mann also inserts the hellish tainting of war rather well. The action scenes are shot with an accurate, breathtaking eye, as Mann properly utilizes slow motion to heighten the thrill of the fights. Once again, Mann goes above and beyond to make sure his actors know how to authentically use the knives, one-shot long rifles, blades, gun stock clubs and so forth. All of these cinematic aspects are also improved by the amazing soundtrack, as the soundtrack adds a layer of emotion that’s undeniably gripping.
Daniel Day-Lewis extends his range even further, playing a white man that was adopted as a child by the Mohicans and raised to fight, talk and act as they do. Day-Lewis nails his role once again, as the swift and sure Hawkeye. Day-Lewis as Hawkeye cares for his people and protects the woman he loves, which are cliché protagonist actions, yet he does it in such a genuine manner that he breaks through the restraints of cliché traits with the way he fleshes out the script. Wes Studi, playing the villainous Magua, is also a standout. Studi, as Magua, is a cold-blooded character driven by revenge in a way that makes the audience feel for, or at least understand, why he commits such heinous acts.
The Last of the Mohicans is a film with amazing, purposeful action, excellent cinematography, and tight performances. Beyond the technicalities, it is a film about the unnecessary act of war, and how love can empower one with foolish courage (although it is courage nonetheless). It is a classic film that is still a stirring experience after almost two decades after its release.
Many have complained about the development of the relationship of Cora Munro and Hawkeye, as it seems that they fall in love instantly, after a brief conversation. It almost feels contrived, but there is also the argument that the influence of war, in which their lives could be taken away at any moment, sped up the development of the relationship.
There is also one pivotal scene, concerning Hawkeye’s plan of abandoning Cora and her sister at a waterfall for Magua to capture. How does Hawkeye know for sure that Magua wouldn’t kill Cora and her sister instantly? That shady moment is a mere speck on a very well-made film for some, but for others it could be a significant annoyance.
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