CineFile – The Last of the Mochicans

by A. Jay Adler on January 15, 2012
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From my recent Geronimo post, we’ve had a brief discussion in the comments section about John Ross, Chief of the Cherokee at the time the Great Removal (in contemporary terminology, “ethnic cleansing), or Trail of Tears, and Andrew Jackson, and who should really be on the $20 bill. One of the actors in the segment of We Shall Remain that told the Cherokee story, it was noted, is Wes Studi. Studi actually is Cherokee, though he has played Indians of varied tribes, including in the fierce performance that made his reputation, the Huron Indian Magua in Michael Mann‘s The Last of the Mohicans.

Mohicans is one of Hollywood’s most finely accomplished adventure stories, a film of refined aesthetic vision coupled with invigorating popular appeal. It is one of the most kinetic films ever made. It achieves its energy not with the now standard quick cuts and explosions but with nearly non-stop movement. This last scene represents most of of what the film is – a depiction of almost ceaseless flight and pursuit. Along the way, the film very naturally, with no didactic intent, captures the historic reality: a continent warred over, during the French and Indian War, by foreign powers, the colonials already emerging as a distinct community and culture, and the native peoples ensnared in a contest for power in which they surely would be among the losers. The stunning landscape that forms the backdrop for all the action offers a vision of the magnificent continent at stake. Click on widescreen. Turn up the sound.

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