Sometimes films that you liked when they were originally released don't stand the test of time too well. I remember liking this film when it came out due to Daniel Day Lewis's surprising hunkiness in it, the chemistry between him and Madeleine Stowe and the over-the-top cheesiness of the line uttered by Day Lewis, "You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you." It brings a smile to my face no matter how often I hear it. Part of me loves the romance of it and part of me breaks out into laughter due to the silliness of it. And I'm telling you this because it sums up how I feel about the movie as a whole. It is romantic and thrilling, but oh so cheesy.
The British and French are waging battle in America in the mid- 18th century. The settlers and Native Americans are forced to take sides. Each side has a band of Native Americans that is helping them in their fight. For instance, the Huron have taken up sides with the French. The British decide to enlist some local militiamen who are not too keen to leave their homes and families unprotected.
The Mohicans are a dying tribe with only two males left and one white man they have adopted and raised as their own named Hawkeye (Daniel Day Lewis – The Boxer, The Gangs of New York). In 1757 these three refuse to join the militia for the British because they want to retain their freedom. While traveling to Kentucky they stop a group of Huron Indians who have attacked a small British regiment that includes the two daughters of Colonel Edmund Munro (Maurice Roëves – Judge Dredd, The Acid House), Cora (Madeleine Stowe – We Were Soldiers, 12 Monkeys) and Alice (Jodhi May – Defiance, The House of Mirth). The three Mohicans agree to lead the surviving Brits to the fort they were traveling to.
While on their way to the fort sparks begin to fly between Cora and Hawkeye. This is distressing to Major Duncan Heyward (Steven Waddington – Carrington, Sleepy Hollow), who also has his eye on Cora. The group are being tailed and threatened by Huron Magua (Wes Studi – Avatar, Heat) as he wants revenge for the deaths of his two sons.
Tension and passions rise and swirl surrounded by the warfare going on around the small group. Each of the characters is faced with making a tough decision that will affect all those around them.
Against my better judgment I still, eighteen years after its release, found myself enjoying the film. The story has its weak moments, but the scenery is great, the action sequences are well done, the music is oddly paced but perfectly suited to what is going on, and the characters are engaging. Despite the fact that I'm sure it is not historically accurate it still gives the viewer an interesting picture of early America and the French – Indian War. The land was beautiful and the environment was brutal.
Some have criticized the film and the James Fenimore Cooper novel it is based on as racist in its portrayal of Native Americans. They are depicted as power hungry and brutal. While I agree that this is the case, but the violence is warranted on the Natives part and has to be shown. Natives were not just spiritual and benevolent. They were undermanned, did not have the weapons the settlers had and were losing the land they had traditionally lived on. Their entire way of life was being threatened. A little brutality was called for and it is not necessarily racism to portray them in this way.
Michael Mann (Collateral, Public Enemy) is a director who is very comfortable in the action/gangster genre, so this is a little bit of a stretch or change of pace for him. But it works out fine as he brings his action film sensibilities to this frontier saga and dives into the action right from the get go. The action starts at the beginning and pretty much continues throughout (when they are not engaging in a little romance, that is). He does a great job realistically portraying the horrors of warfare during this period.
-Making of The Last of the Mohicans