Sunday, August 18, 2013

Movie of the Week – Dances with Wolves

This week’s movie: Dances with Wolves (1990).

After a perceived act of heroism (which was really an attempted suicide), Lt. John Dunbar requests for and is assigned to a remote Civil War outpost in the far West of the American Plains. Cut off from civilization, as he knows it, Dunbar’s world view is irreparably changed as he befriends a wolf and the neighboring Indian tribe – making him an outcast and criminal for the U.S. military.

Kevin Costner makes his directorial debut with the film, and does a masterful job. In the mid-to-late 1980s he had become one of Hollywood’s most recognizable leading men, but with Dances with Wolves he felt a more personal connection. It was a story he needed to tell himself, and not merely star in. Along with his 2003 film, Open Range, Costner has proved himself to be a master of the new American western. Costner assembled a strong group of collaborators for the film as well with composer John Barry (who won an Oscar for his work), cinematographer Dean Semler (who also won an Oscar), and production designer Jeffrey Beecroft.

Costner gives one of the best performances of his career as Lt. John Dunbar, capturing the sadness and regret of watching the end of a once flourishing people and the humanity and friendship that was (for the most part) never offered them. Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, and Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman are all very good in support.

Dances with Wolves won seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. It is a classic and among the best Hollywood films of the 1990s. It works as both a western epic as it perfectly encapsulates the experience of a lone man in the frontier, but also works as a deconstruction of the genre, as it actually presents Native American culture as vibrant – rather than Indians appearing only as villains or caricatures. It is a must-see for fans of the genre.

Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Streaming

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