The Last Of The Mohicans - Blu-ray Review (Director's Definitive Cut)

'a captivating, peaceful depiction of a violent time, a simple story with major notions of well executed grandeur'

There can be no greater sign of intent than a truly epic opening. As the camera fades in from black, Michael Mann greets us with a slow pan over mist-covered hillocks, the tangible terrain of an era, and copious blasts of Randy Edelman and Trevor Jones's reverberating score. Welcome, please, come in, feel comfortable, prepare to have your jolly green socks knocked off by the nature of the epic; personified, shortened.

Mann is giving us a signal here, and Edelman and Jones are reflecting on it. Listen to the start; the deep drumbeats of inevitable conflict, the terse snare of it marching towards us, that over-lay of strings suggesting tension and suspense, then that magnificent crescendo. Mann, Edelman and Jones are doing fairly typical things here, but they're doing them magnificently and they are heralding the arrival of something major.

And, in a way, that does summarise much of The Last Of The Mohicans, a film which follows a strong silent type into conflict, brotherhood and love. The innovation - and there is some - is mainly sold down the river at the hands of execution. Do all these things well - the soaring score, the damsel in distress, the likeable hero - and to hell with what else there is in here.

But then, Mann does master his film's ideas too. Notions of the nature and freedom of men's souls and lives survive in John L. Balderston, Paul Perez and Daniel Moore's adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper's novel. Again, simple ideas but well executed. French victor Montcalm (Patrice Chéreau) is beholden by tradition and honour, Scot Munro (Maurice Roëves) by past conflicts, Magua (Wes Studi) by his loss, Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) of course, is tied to nothing he does not wish to be.

Clearly, there are also ideas of nationhood, xenophobia and diplomacy at work. Hawkeye remains a free man of the land because he rejects the colonisation of his physical body and ethereal soul. Others, notably Magua, are eventually revealed as having sold their right to patriotism by the maltreatment of others and of themselves. The message feels very much like one of acceptance, resistance through enlightenment, rather than by force.

As per the opening titles though, this is, at core level, a film entirely satisfying in its portrayal of a sweeping epic, as well as its interesting ideas. The Last Of The Mohicans is ultimately a captivating, peaceful depiction of a violent time, a simple story with major notions of well executed grandeur.

The Last Of The Mohicans - Director's Definitive Cut is out in the UK on Blu-ray now.

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