If you’re anything like me, you’ve watched every single film that Daniel Day-Lewis has been a part of. There is just something about him. He brings such a high caliber of performance in every project he’s a part of. He’s known to be diving deep into his roles and being a proper method actor on set for long periods of time. He, basically, kind of ruined his body structure for My Left Foot, a film that he won his first Oscar for. The Last of the Mohicans is one of the first films where Daniel Day-Lewis showcased his fullest acting potential, and it remains one of the most classic war/adventure films to date.
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The Movie Review
Amidst the French and Indian wars, Britain and France are battling it out over total control of North America. However, when everything goes sour between the British and their treaties with the natives; three trappers will be enlisted by a British Colonel. These trappers will be charged with just one thing; to protect the daughters of the Colonel, Cora, and Alice, from any harm that might befall them in the treacherous frontier.
Before Mel Gibson’s Braveheart took over the world of historical war epics, director Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans reigned supreme over period films about war and adventuring. It’s a hyped and mythicized version of a true and terrible legend, regarding a battle between France and Britain in which they fight to take control of Colonial America.
The film was based on a novel of the same name by James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 and George B. Seitz’s 1936 film adaptation as well. It’s inspired more by the film adaptation than the actual novel though.
Michael Mann’s direction is obviously, once again, very heavily stylized rather than just simplistically made. He also turns this story into somewhat of a white savior tale, and most of the time the villains within the story are native people whose houses are literally being ravaged. I do have to say that while the film’s showcasing of the indigenous people is very problematic, the film itself is decently well made.
Though, there isn’t anything groundbreaking here aside from the first time we’re seeing Daniel Day-Lewis at the forefront of a film.
I really appreciate the visual design and the cinematography of this film. The director of photography, cinematographer Dante Spinotti had previously worked on projects such as Manhunter with Michael Mann. Though he didn’t go on to shoot a story as epic as this one again, it’s a film that features a huge amount of practical effects work and a ton of large-scale production design which gave it an almost life-like feel.
Oh, and not to mention but Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman have created one of the most sonically potent soundtracks for a war film of that time in The Last of the Mohicans.
The performances though are something I can talk about for hours here. Now, while I do agree that this film has Daniel Day-Lewis, and it’s probably his weakest performance so far. I do have to commend the other actors for at least trying, because as far as I know; he outshines everybody. Even at his weakest performance yet, Daniel Day-Lewis gives a performance that should have had him at least get nominated for an Oscar.
The remaining cast, starring Madeleine Stowe, with Jodhi May, Russell Means, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig, and Steven Waddington in supporting roles also do a fantastic job. They made the world feel a bit more realistic with their performances and their passion for the film.
The Bottom Line
In short, The Last of the Mohicans is by far one of the best war films and an instant classic when it comes to gothic romances. It’s a tale of an unlikely duo falling for each other, while a large-scale war ravages all around them. The war is showcased in its brutality for the most part, with lives being destroyed, both indigenous and for the colonizers. However, it does have a very problematic view of the indigenous people and that is something that I can’t personally encourage.
It’s shot well, has a stunning soundtrack, and has some of the best performances in the campy, melodramatic genre but it’s just a decent film overall.