Saturday, January 19, 2019

Dances with Wolves

Movie Name: Dances with Wolves
Year of Release: 1990
Director: Kevin Costner
Starring: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman, Tantoo Cardinal, Robert Pastorelli, Charles Rocket, Maury Chaykin, Jimmy Herman, Michael Spears
Genre: Drama, Western
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7 
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Synopsis and Review:
After he solidified his acting career with a string of hits in the 80s, Kevin Costner made his directorial debut in 1990, with his passion project, an adaptation of the Michael Blake novel "Dances with Wolves". The film follows the story of Lieutenant John Dunbar, who following what he thought was a suicidal last moment in a battle (Civil War), ends up leading his troops to victory. Dunbar gets rewarded for his act of bravery, and gets a position in the Western frontier. He finds the post deserted, but slowly rebuilds it, while making friends with a lonely wolf that comes by, and the nearby Native American tribe. In that tribe, he discovers a white woman who has been raised by them, with whom he becomes enamored with. This peaceful co-existence continues to develop and grow roots, until a regiment shows up to assess Dunbar's progress, throwing everything into disarray.
"Dances with Wolves" was of course an iconic film from the 90s. It amplified Kevin Costner's career, giving him critical and commercial success (he won Academy Awards, and nearly every award available in 1991), and propelling him to a high profile career that only started to cool off after Kevin Reynolds' "Waterworld". The film comes more as a spiritual descendant of Ralph Nelson's "Soldier Blue", more so than the iconic films of John Ford (such as "The Searchers"), which it also references. It's a film about the relationship established between people of different communities, at a time when the American territory was still being shaped, and tension existed between the Native American tribes and the settlers. The film is at its best when it goes for the open shots of the west, showing the natural beauty of the territory. It is somewhat maudlin when it comes to the depiction of the relationships at hand, but it's nonetheless effective in creating an authentic feel for life in the Western Frontier in the late 19th century. Time hasn't been as forgiving with this film as it was when it originally came out - the film was then praised for maintaining the authenticity of the tribes dialect, but it is still very much a vision of that existence from an external point of view, and not so much a fairly realistic one (just for comparison, it's interesting to see the far more poetic, grittier vision that Alejandro G. Iñárritu captured with "The Revenant"). It's an interesting film nonetheless featuring great supporting performances from Mary McDonnell and Graham Greene, beautiful cinematography from Dean Semler and the always memorable score from John Barry. Worth watching.