The Last of the Mohicans (1992) – Michael Mann

People will rave about Heat, or Collateral Damage, cult fans will cite The Keep, but Mann’s adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s classic novel, The Last of the Mohicans, is my favorite of his films. Taking home the Oscar for Best Sound, Mann’s film is lush, detailed, and an epic retelling of a beloved novel.

Daniel Day-Lewis takes on the role of Hawkeye, a man raised by Mohicans, Chingachgook (Russell Means) and his son, Uncas (Eric Schweig), who feels no loyalty to either side in the ongoing French-British war for the Americas. He’s devoted to his people and friends, knows the countryside, how to travel with ease over it, and how to eke out an existence with his adopted family.

As he watches British families he considers friends fall to roving war parties, he finds himself emmeshed in helping a young woman, Cora Munro (Madeline Stowe), her sister, Alice (Jodhi May), and the British officer, Heyward (Steven Waddington) who has been assigned to escort them, and is love with Cora, with designs on marrying her.

Drawn into the conflict through love, he falls for Cora (and who can blame him?), Hawkeye finds himself in a protracted chase as they are pursued by the French, and a dangerous Huron, Magua (Wes Studi).

Featuring what I feel is Trevor Jones best score ever (created in part by Randy Edelman, and the track Promentory often shows up in any playlist I create), this movie completely soars, and captures the imagination every time I watch it. In fact, before this viewing I hadn’t watched it in years, but it’s one of those films that as soon as I watch it, I want to watch it again, immediately.

Beautifully shot, framed, edited, scored, and masterfully directed, The Last of the Mohicans, is nothing short of stunning, with Day-Lewis losing himself in a role (yet again) and the lovely Madeline Stowe bringing Cora to life with ease. If I developed a crush on her in Stakeout, it grew to exponential proportions with this film.

I love everything about this film, and watching it play out for the first time in so many years, is like discovering it anew. This is Mann at the top of his directorial game, yes, he’s made incredible films before and since, and many of them are listed amongst my favorites, but this one is just brilliant to watch.

He takes his time with the story, letting the characters breathe, find their moments, and letting us soak in the world of Hawkeye and Cora, and willing to follow them, and find them, over and over again.

And that beautifully shot climax, just wow. Gorgeous location work, beautiful production value, set design, and top notch performers taking on a classic story, what’s not to like in this one? Lush, romantic, and powerful, old school moviemaking at its finest.

Such a beautiful film.

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