So over at The Guardian’s film blog they’ve been running a series of each staff writer’s favorite movie. I thought that was a great idea, so I thought I would try to start that here with mine: The Last of the Mohicans.
Mohicans just barely edges out Die Hard as my favorite, and while I tried to come up with a lengthy paragraph to explain how I could relegate to number two the John McTiernan masterpiece that is the greatest film ever made, I could finally only think of one word: history.
Where does one begin on the sweeping vistas of Dante Spinotti’s cinematography or the sweeping vistas of the language of a script written by Michael Mann and Christopher Crowe, itself an adaptation of an adaptation of a novel, where, simply, to begin with this True American Epic? Where to begin with how much this movie meant and still means to my life? Sure, there are some naysayers, but to them I politely ask (as I ask of those naysayers of the tv series Rome) to keep your love of truly accurate history at the door and revel in a world of detail that few directors but Mann could recreate so completely and immersively.
It was my first year of college. Mansfield University in Mansfield, PA. The only movie theater was about an hour away in Tonawanda, I believe it was called. My then-girlfriend was Nicole Keller. (Side note: Nicole was killed in a rollover accident a couple years later. Pretty sad.) We had decided we wanted to see a movie, and so we drove the distance to the theater and saw The Last of the Mohicans.
It seems that with some movies their greatness is not fully understood the first viewing. A couple of movies have been like that for me, namely any early movie of Takeshi Kitano or Edward Burns (I swear his movies grow in stature with repeated viewings).
However, with Last of the Mohicans, I walked out of that theater holding Nicole’s hand knowing full-well that I had just had the greatest movie-going eperience of my life. I was caught-up in all the sumptuous detail, and I couldn’t extract my mind from the experience, even after it was over. And that belief stands to this day, through any and every movie I’ve ever seen.
Madeleine Stowe is perfectly cast, her strong voice quavering at just the right moments and commanding the attention of colonels the next: “Duncan, you are a man of a few admirable qualities, but taken as a whole, I was wrong to have thought so highly of you.”
There is redemption through sacrifice. Misplaced ideological beliefs that one’s goal to destroy another is right and proper due to two wrongs making a right. There is ultimate sacrifice for love. There is revenge through love. And there is some of the best classical music ever put to film.
In short, there is no more perfectly encapsulated blockbuster-as-art than Michael Mann’s Last of the Mohicans, and I am very proud to call it my favorite movie of all time.