Last of the Mohicans, The (1992)

A well-built historical action epic by Mann about the British and French battling for control over the American colonies, but it does sometimes feel bogged down by its warm, romantic tone amid the bloodshed.    

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,610

Dir. Michael Mann
1992 | USA | Drama, Action, Adventure | 112 min | 2.35:1 | English, French & North American Indian
PG13 (passed clean) for violence

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Jodhi May, Russell Means, Wes Studi
Plot: The English and French fight for control of the North American colonies in the 18th century. A budding romance between an orphaned settler and the daughter of a British Colonel has vast complications and dangers attached.
Awards: Won Best Sound (Oscars)
Distributor: Revolution

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Colonialism; North American Indians
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

Made in between Manhunter (1986) and Heat (1995), The Last of the Mohicans is Michael Mann’s take on the historical action epic. 

Known more for his stylish contemporary thrillers like Collateral (2004) and Miami Vice (2006), Mann’s foray into period filmmaking stars no less than the great Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays Hawkeye, part of a trio of Native Americans known as the Mohicans, whose days are unfortunately numbered. 

He is the adopted half-white brother to Uncas, who together with their father, Chingachgook, live in the fringes of the American colonies, which are now battlegrounds for control between the British and French. 

When the daughters (one of whom Hawkeye is smitten with) of a British colonel face imminent danger posed by a rival tribe, Hawkeye must try to protect them from their brutality.  

“I would rather make the gravest of mistakes than surrender my own judgment.”

It is a straightforward affair from a storytelling perspective, but the film is well-built with ample scenes of war action, with a mass ambush set-piece the pick of the lot. 

While it is a film that emphasises its natural, rugged, even hostile locales (it was shot largely in the forests, rivers and mountains of North Carolina), The Last of the Mohicans is also tender in its portrayal of the romance between Hawkeye and Cora (Madeleine Stowe). 

Perhaps too tender and warm I feel, sometimes diluting the film’s more sobering themes of courage and sacrifice amid the bloodshed. 

This is the main reason why I felt Mann’s work here doesn’t quite reach the heights of some of his best films, though some might argue that this could be his most traditional, heart-stirring piece, something that he has largely avoided for much of his career, perhaps with the exception of Ali (2001). 

Look out for the legendary music by Randy Edelman and Trevor Jones, which could be the film’s most memorable legacy. 

Grade: B



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