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20th Century Fox presents
British Officer: You call yourself a patriot, a loyal subject to the crown?
DVD ReviewHawkeye (Daniel Day Lewis) rushes through the woods in pursuit of an unseen entity. His adopted Mohican father Chingachgook (Russell Means) and his Mohican brother Uncas (Eric Schweig) quickly follow him through the forest. A rousing score plays in the background, and it emits a tone of importance and grandeur. When they reach their prey, which is only a single deer, the payoff may seem silly, but it is still interesting and visually stunning. Director Michael Mann (The Insider, Heat) injects the entire story of The Last of the Mohicans with this sense of immediacy and scenic majesty. In this opening scene, he uses no dialogue for several lengthy minutes, and instead utilizes the scenery and score to draw us immediately into the story.
During the French and Indian War, the British are waging vicious battles on several fronts and are losing. The French have allied with Indian tribes, including the warriors of the Huron, and things look bleak. Cora and Alice Munro, the beautiful daughters of Colonel Edward Munro, are on track to meet their father at Fort William-Henry. Unfortunately, a Huron war party attacks the soldiers accompanying them. Luckily, Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas save them from almost certain death. This inaugurates an exciting adventure across the scenic landscape and through numerous dangerous situations. During this journey, Hawkeye and Cora (Madeline Stowe) fall deeply in love, and they must strive mightily to remain together and stay alive, "No matter what occurs!"
Based on the well-known 1826 novel by James Fenimore Cooper, this historical epic features a wide-sweeping story that encompasses a major event in Early American history. It also takes a more intimate look at a group of characters brought together by circumstance. Major Heyward (Steven Waddington) loves Cora, and he does not take kindly to a savage American gaining her love. He also possesses a true love for England, though, and shows his courage with one, life-saving act. Uncas is a soft-spoken young man who was educated both in school and in the wild. His quiet tenderness for Alice (Jodhi May) adds emotional weight to what could be a simpler, one-note love story. The enemy of the picture is Magua (Wes Studi), a vicious Huron warrior with only one sinister goal. However, even his evil nature springs from complex past experiences with the British soldiers.
Michael Mann has directed only a handful of films in the past decade, so his name is hardly mentioned among the ranks of premier Hollywood directors. However, each of these three films stands as one of the best films of its respective year. Heat intimately explores the lives of both the police detective and the criminal. By the conclusion, it is difficult to choose whether to root for Al Pacino's raucous cop or Robert Deniro's mild-mannered villain. Heat also contains one of the most chaotic shootouts in movie history. The Insider took the story of a former tobacco executive and a 60 Minutes television producer and turned it into a suspenseful potboiler. Without a single shot fired, Mann created one of the best edge-of-your-seat thrillers in recent years. Last of the Mohicans also utilizes his abilities to direct believable emotional drama in almost any situation. While the love story probably happens too fast and is a bit far-fetched, he makes it feel real and immediate.
The success of this film relates directly to the immense talents of its impressive cast. Prior to this film, Daniel Day Lewis had never before played a role of this type. The casting works surprisingly well, however, with his acting talents adding weight to every line he speaks. Madeline Stowe does not receive many roles on this level, and she takes advantage of the opportunity. Cora is a stunning woman, but her power comes from within her heart. Wes Studi stole Geronimo from renowned acting talents like Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall, and this role once again proves his prowess. Magua's motives are understandable, even if his methods are brutal and bone-chilling. The rest of the cast all perform remarkably, especially Russell Means as the powerful Mohican elder Chingachgook.
It surprises me to hear film lovers whom I respect describe Last of the Mohicans as boring, dull, and uninteresting. I find it impossible not to be drawn into this sweeping adventure even after repeated viewings. The story told here is universal, and speaks above love, honor, and family. The action occurs at a ferocious pace through numerous exciting scenes, and the melodic score carries the story to a higher level.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: The Last of the Mohicans is the type of film that deserves the premier visual treatment. Countless beautiful scenes of magnificent scenery exist throughout this epic adventure. The original release disappointed numerous fans with its lesser nonanamorphic transfer. On this disc, however, Fox gets it right with one of the best transfers available on any DVD to date. The bright colors of the wide, expansive scenery succeed wonderfully and are awe-inspiring. When Hawkeye leads the party on canoes over a waterfall, we're right there with them, due to the gorgeous visuals. I noticed virtually zero defects in this transfer, and give Fox high marks for providing this film's numerous fans with the appropriate visual form.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The Last of the Mohicans won the Academy Award® for Best Sound in 1993. The remarkable 6.1-channel DTS track on this disc showcases the wonderful sound effects and score of this film. The gun shots and cannonballs explode with force and power from all elements of the sound field during the French siege. While Hawkeye rushes to save Cora from the Huron warriors, the stirring score energizes the film. The music and sounds are a crucial element of this story, and this DTS track helps to create a wonderful filmgoing experience.
The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track also does a nice job of bringing the score through the entire sound field. There's nothing bad about this transfer, but it pales in comparison to the DTS track. The sounds are a little less crisp and clear, and don't provide the same energy. However, this track still is recommended and will not lessen the impact of the film. The disc also contains a 2.0-channel Dolby track.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
The only other extra is a brief cast list containing the major characters in the film. I could consider the DTS track an extra feature, but this still would not take Fox off the hook. It's sad that a film of this quality and interest would lack a feature commentary or any documentaries. The commentary choice probably comes from Michael Mann, who also has shied from one on Heat and The Insider. I consider him one of the better filmmakers of recent years, and would love to hear his thoughts on the film. While talented directors such as David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson embrace DVD, it's unfortunate that others like Mann still stray from utilizing the advantages of the medium.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsThe Last of the Mohicans is filmmaking on an epic scale with sweeping landscapes, heart-wrenching emotions, and large-scale battles. Fox's new relase of this film features a nearly pristine anamorphic transfer and a top-notch DTS audio track. While it still lacks suitable extras, I highly recommended this DVD due to the power of the film and its revamped sound and video. Michael Mann has created one of the best historical epics in recent years, and it is a worthy addition to any collection.
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