Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Eric Schweig, Jodhi May|
|Distributor:||20th Century Fox|
This James Fennimore Cooper novel has been filmed about six times. This 1992 version has a historically realistic feel and features some lush outdoor photography.
In 1757, the British and French are at war for control of eastern North America; the Mohicans are allied with the British while their old enemies the Hurons side with the French. Nathaniel/Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), the white adopted son of the Mohican Chingatchgook (Russell Means), tries to stay out of the conflict; but he, his father, and his brother Uncas (Eric Schweig) are pulled deeply into it when they rescue the daughters of British Col. Munro from a Huron ambush.
There is almost no profanity (an occasional d* and h*, which have been standard content in war movies since before there was a rating system). And there’s no sexual content, unless we assume that a tryst between Hawkeye and Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe) went beyond the kissing and hugging that’s shown onscreen. The R rating is for a large amount of graphic war-related violence including massacring of women and children, scalping, a scene of a man’s heart being cut out while he’s still alive etc. The Huron warrior Magua (Wes Studi, who also played a “bad guy” Indian in “Dances With Wolves”) is consumed with hatred for the British and the Mohicans; but if what he says happened to him and his family is true, this is somewhat understandable. As Hawkeye says: “Magua’s heart is twisted, and he’s become what twisted him.” We are reminded that unless the cycle of violence and revenge is broken by forgiveness, it just begets more of the same.
Except for the unrealistic kill ratio and charmed lives of some of the heroes, and a few corny feats (such as Hawkeye killing two men by firing two muzzle-loading rifles at once, from his hips, while running along a mountain ledge trail), the film probably gives us a realistic picture of frontier life. It’s a good adaptation of a good classic novel; but that doesn’t make it family entertainment. The comic book company “Classics Illustrated” went out of business because if they produced a faithful adaptation of a violent novel such as this story or “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” the imagery would upset younger readers; but if they produced a “softened” version, the literary purists would protest that they were tampering with the author’s intent. After putting out two and sometimes three versions of a number of novels, they finally gave up. The point is, SEEING something is different from just reading it and forming your own mental image. And any problem with a comic book version is multiplied tenfold in a movie with modern special effects. This film is definitely not for children.