The year is 1757 and the French and British are battling for control of what would eventually become the United States. Each group is made up of forces from their respective homelands as well as various Native American tribes throughout the country. The British forces have also begun recruiting local militias. Being that they are British colonies, they feel they are owed some allegiance. This actually becomes a sticking point later in the movie, as colonists were promised they could take leave from the war to defend their homes if they came under threat as a result of any of the fighting.
This is where our main characters come into play. Chingachgook (Russell Means) and his two sons Uncas (Eric Schweig) and Hawkeye/Nathaniel (Daniel Day-Lewis) are the last of their people. Well technically only Chingachagook and Uncas are Mohicans. Hawkeye is adopted. Chingachagook took him in as in infant, but for all intents and purposes he is one of them. Though they are initially intent on staying out of the conflict, they take more of an interest when some of the colonists – who were their friends – are killed. They want make British forces aware of this tragedy so they can release the militia members to go back and defend their homes.
Another reason they end up getting involved because they get caught up in a conflict between British officers and a group of Natives. Led by Major Duncan Heyward, a group of officers, and the daughters of Colonel Edmund Munroe (Maurice Roeves) are headed to Fort William Henry. While on the way, they are attacked by a group of Huron, who are led by a sadistic man named Magua (Wes Studi). Duncan (Steven Waddington), Chingachgook, Uncas, and Hawkeye are able to fend off the attackers, but Magua gets away. The three men agree to help guide Duncan, Cora (Madeline Stowe), and Alice (Jodhi May) to their destination. They are all unaware that the fort is under attack by the French.
Queue the drama. Duncan and Cora know one another. Duncan serves Cora’s father in the military and it appears they might have known one another growing up. Duncan is sweet on Cora and wishes to marry her, but Cora is uncertain, because though she cares about Duncan, she only considers him a friend. Hawkeye is this mysterious European looking man who travels with the Natives. His long hair, lean build, and connection to nature are intriguing to Cora. And so, the classic love triangle enters the picture.
Munroe is extremely grateful to the Mohicans for saving his daughters lives. He agrees to give them whatever supplies they want and allow them men to leave of their own free will, as they never wanted to be involved in the conflict to begin with. His attitude towards them quickly changes when they help militia members escape. I say escape because Munroe does not give them permission to leave despite promises from his superior officers earlier in the film. Hawkeye and company are officially between a rock and a hard place.
I remember the first time I saw this movie. My dad took me to see it in theaters. I think he thought it looked like it had good action and would entertain a 12-year old boy. He wasn’t wrong, but I don’t think he realized this was a historical epic drama either. Luckily for him, I was into the whole thing. Now, I’m not sure if I’ve seen this movie since then. I picked up the DVD super cheap a few years ago, but never got around to watching it. I recently watched it and remember why I liked it. It’s so epic, dramatic, and action-packed. For a graphic war movie, some of the action scenes are beautifully done. They’re almost like a well-choreographed dance, but one that just so happens to look like a very realistic fight. The way the characters movie – the Native Americans in particular – is like the wind. They run so smoothly and have stamina that seems to be endless. They run through fields and mountains cutting down any enemies that stand in their way. They are like ballerinas with various knives, axes, and other instruments of destruction at their disposal. There is something so completely and totally contradictory about that, but it comes together nicely. I’m actually envious of how easily the characters move too. The just keep running and running and make it look so easy and natural. When I run, I get tired in about 60 seconds and my knees ache even sooner.
The movie also has some great cinematography, acting, and music. It all comes together wonderfully. Not only is this an entertaining movie, it's a well-made one.
Rating: Thumbs up.
What She said:
If you know me, which you probably don’t, you know that I’m not one for “epic” movies. Anything longer than two hours or that tells some grand, overly involved story begins to bore me. Hence, I’ve avoided The Last of the Mohicans all these years. Daniel Day-Lewis just screams snorefest. But, I was already bored last weekend when I pitched the idea of screening this 1992 flick to The He. The He apparently loves the movie, so I figured at least one of us would be happy.
Basic plot, from what I could gather: The year is 1750-something and all hell is breaking loose as the Colonies are in the grips of the French and Indian War. Day-Lewis is Hawkeye (no, not the Avenger), the adopted European-born son of a Mohican Indian scout. He and his people get caught up in some drama involving some really mean Native Americans who want them and the Brits gone. Hawkeye seems to have aligned himself with some British folk that includes a dude and his beautiful daughters. Of course, a romance buds between him and the older daughter, Cora (Madeleine Stowe). There’s some hostage taking, things get burned down, there’s a surprising amount of shooting, and yes, lots of Native American hooting and hollering (I just thought that was a bad stereotype). Hawkeye has to save the day and bring order back to his community.
So, as usual, the movie challenged me from the very beginning. First of all, we had a full screen version that was also cut down to widescreen, and with no zoom feature on the TV, I was stuck watching a 19 inch version of the film. And there’s so much running. Just people yelling and then running for what seems like miles without getting out of breath. So, then I just got mad and jealous of everyone on screen because of their amazing cardio skills. As I noted to myself how muscular and toned all the characters' physiques were, I lost track of the storyline, and then I fell behind the curve. From there, I had to Wikipedia the plot just to get myself back in the mix, and still struggled to keep up. The romance was kind of interesting, if I wasn’t so distracted by Day-Lewis’ Kenny G-like hair. Ooof. I felt like him and Cora should be posing on the front of one of those books they sell at the end of the greeting card aisle in the supermarket.
That said, I don’t think it’s a bad movie. I think it’s really just a me thing. These types of movies don’t do much for me, regardless of how good the plot is. I’ve heard from many that this is a spectacular movie, and so I don’t want to NOT endorse it. If you, the reader, think that you might like this film, then there’s a pretty good chance you will. So don’t let me turn you off to it.