The last members of a dying Native American tribe, the Mohicans -- Uncas, his father Chingachgook, and his adopted half-white brother Hawkeye -- live in peace alongside British colonists. But when the daughters of a British colonel are kidnapped by a traitorous scout, Hawkeye and Uncas must rescue them in the crossfire of a gruesome military conflict of which they wanted no part: the French and Indian War. Written by
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1757 / The American colonies. / It is the 3rd year of the war between England and France for the possession of the continent. / Three men, the last of a vanishing people, are on the frontier west of the Hudson River.
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Policier specialist Michael Mann steps way off his usual beaten path with this adaptation of that hoary old James Fenimore Cooper tale of frontiersmen, Indians, Redcoats and the French -- the latter back when they knew how to fight.
Chameleonic actor Daniel Day Lewis is totally convincing as Hawkeye, tracker, warrior, and adopted white son of Chingagchook, last of the Mohicans tribe. Along with adoptive brother, Uncas, the three are swept into the French and Indian war of 1757, treading lightly between the antagonists: French and Hurons on one side, British and colonials on the other, each faction potentially treacherous and deadly.
Mann doesn't waste time on exposition or character development; he just hurls us into the fast-paced, brutal action and the effect is like snagging the tail of a galloping racehorse and trying to hang on to the finish line. Madeline Stowe and Jodhi May, as sisters of the British major Munro, provide love interest for Hawkeye and Uncas, respectively. Steven Waddington is another Redcoat officer infatuated with Stowe, and he too shines as a 'bad guy' who's more complex than he at first seems. But the movie's almost stolen by Wes Studi as Magua, a Huron warrior who's allied himself with the French solely as a means to avenge himself on the white man. He's as mesmerizing and lethal as a cobra.
Technical qualities are exemplary, with special mention to the magnificent scenery of old-growth forestlands and mountains in North Carolina, and a superb score by Trevor Jones, with an assist by Randy Edelman.
Mann might not be the first guy you'd think of to stage an 18th-century period action/adventure/romance. But after seeing what he does here, no one can fail to be impressed by his range and bravura. This is a must-own.
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