I watched The Last of the Mohicans the same week I watched Carlito’s Way. These were two films I never avoided but nonetheless never got around to watching. And in retrospect two films I could have gone forever without seeing and not missed all that much.
That said Mohicans is clearly the better of the two.
It is 1757. Britain and France are waging a pitched war that hopes to resolve who will plant their flag in this new land of the Americas. Ironic given that the land already is home to several tribes of Native American Indians, all of whom have been there for centuries. Seems they should have invented flags.
One such tribe – the Mohicans – has near died out, just as the title implies. The very Last apparently, are a father and son combo, and Hawkeye (Daniel Day Lewis) a European accepted into the tribe. Probably to boost numbers it would seem. This trio work as trappers, neutral to all conflict around them.
This changes when they are forced to prevent the slaughter of an English travelling party at the hands of a particularly savage group of Mohawk Indians. Hawkeye nobly informs the few survivors that they will escort them to their destination, a heavily guarded fort that is lead by an officer who is father to Cora (Madeleine Stowe), one of the survivors. But the fort ain’t going much better, and as they arrive it is already under siege to the French, who grossly outnumber and outgun the exhausted and stressed English.
As several of the soldiers ask for leave to attend their own unguarded homes in surrounding regions, many of which are in peril of being over-run by savage Indian war parties, Hawkeye and Cora catch each other’s eye, and the film turns into an action filled tale of romance, the likes of which has undoubtedly made the heart of many a middle age woman flutter.
Daniel Day Lewis keeps a set jaw, an unbuttoned shirt and a steely eye. Trapping obviously also involves a lot of cardio, as for the next few days he runs in slow motion – to Cora. Fights quite a lot – to protect Cora, and makes sexily accented manly speeches – to Cora. In fact you wonder just what type of film this would be without Cora in it. I mean Hawkeye would likely be quite a bit more laidback.
This film is just like Titanic, with action and violence to placate the guys in the audience, but the real impact coming from the romantic elements. The violence here is occasionally graphic (let’s just say that the film doesn’t shy away from scalpings) but some of the background killings look like guys daintily touching chests instead of savage hacking.
Elsewhere the vistas are sweeping, the environments lush and full of natural beauty, and the score grandiose and wondrous (it is actually very good). But make no mistake this is a film about the wonder, beauty and grandioseness of one Daniel Day Lewis. The violence is there to shock and appall, he is there to look at the camera every now and then so female viewers all gush and think “if ever I was stuck in a savage land, I’d want Daniel Day Lewis there to protect me!” If this film had Tim Roth in the lead it would be decried for its violence and derided for its plot holes (it does seem as though it was heavily edited and fast forwards past things you would think relevant), but with DDL in the lead it has become known as one of the all time great romantic dramas.
And it probably is. It’s just a genre I have no interest in. This film is half historical drama, half romance – a romance I might add that develops over a few days. Cora you willful hussy! – it also maintained half of my interest and seems half finished.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. Call me crazy but for me the only Hawkeye will always be Alan Alda.