Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Last Of The Mohicans (1992) Film Review
The Last Of The Mohicans
Reviewed by: Nick Da Costa
Both a film of the death of British rule and the death of a native people, Michael Mann's film follows Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), the adopted white son of a Mohawk chief, as he attempts to protect Cora (Madeleine Stowe), the daughter of a British colonel, while avoiding both the war between British and French forces and a blood feud with the vicious and vengeful Magua (Wes Studi), a Huron, and bitter enemy of the Mohawks. This all comes together to make a swashbuckling masterpiece with a barnstorming central performance from the little seen, Day-Lewis.
Mann creates a perfect balance of action and mood. It may not be as authentic as it would like to be, but it's true to its matinee roots, providing just enough historical and political details of the time and not dwelling, as some might, on absurd caricatures of the British, French or native Americans. True, the British are at times as pompous and preening as their cinematic red-coated brothers, but at least this is somewhat alleviated by a characters' gallant sacrifice late on in the movie.
Like any Saturday matinee of old, there is the central love story to which everything else provides backdrop, and yes, Stowe's transformation from dainty English beauty into frontier fraterniser is a little quick, but there is genuine and realistic passion just as the action surrounding it is robust and powerful. The fantastic ambush scene is a perfect example of this. Almost slasher-style in its savage build-up, with men picked off suddenly, the sound dipping with the blow of tomahawk or club. Then the war cry and an eruption from the forest followed by the slow pop of gunfire, building, and building into the eventual thunderclap as both sides unleash their weapons. There is a real sense we are seeing something we will never see again - the last remnants of a culture, its rituals, weapons, people all ripped apart by societal forces.
The music matches this, a deep rooted theme, primitive, yet potent. It has an intense rhythm that resounds and repeats as the film progresses. It's a stirring heartbeat, leading us to a perfectly orchestrated climax as the Mohawk standoff against Magda and his Huron brothers. The final shot is one of reflection, not just for the characters but for everyone as Mann shows us one final time the magnificent savagery of a land still untouched, but soon to be destroyed by the chaos and war going on below.Reviewed on: 06 Jul 2010