As Blu-ray secures itself as a faithful medium, you will find that more and more less-recent films are making their way to high definition. A highlight of 1992’s cinema résumé is Michael Mann’s remake of The Last of the Mohicans. Starring Daniely Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood) along with Madeline Stowe (We Were Soldiers), Russell Means (Pochohontas) and Wes Studi (Dances With Wolves), this story on the American frontier delivers a tale across an awe-inspiring landscape amidst the conflict between empires with natives caught in the crossfire. Subtitled the “Director’s Definitive Cut,” I was curious to see what additional goods The Last of the Mohicans brought on Blu-ray.
The movie is set in 1757 during the French and Indian war with a gorgeous and untouched North American wilderness as the backdrop. Before I continue, I must offer up a really brief history lesson. I often find people who think they know who won the French and Indian war; the Indians, right? After all, we’re not speaking French. Right, we’re not speaking French, or any of the variety of Native American tongues either. The French and Indians were on the same side going up against mighty England and the colonists.
That’s where the trio of the final remaining Mohicans come into the story led by Chingachgook (Russell Means), his blood son Uncas (Eric Schweig) and adopted white son Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis). The three souls tied to nature have allied with the British forces, who have vowed to protect colony farms and families while the men are serving the King’s cause against France. It isn’t before long when an Indian turncoat is found in the British ranks, serving France as well as his own agenda. His devious undertakings are certain to spell doom for the British platoons marching through the untamed and unfamiliar wilderness of their new battleground.
Through their journey Hawkeye develops a love interest in the beautiful Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe), who just happens to be the daughter of one very prominent British general, whose fort and men are currently under siege by the incessant ramparts of French artillery. Hawkeye and family arrive to assist the general, only to find political interests getting in the way of progress and achievement. While two of Europe’s nations fight to gain ground, another battle ensues, away from the focused attention of the white man as the Huron and Mohicans square off in a conflict of personal interests versus what is right.
The acting, especially by Lewis and Stowe, is utterly superb in this film. The supporting cast does an exquisite job in their performances as well, amidst all the strife and confusion brought about by war and colliding emotions. The movie commits a valiant effort tying this together and the result is purely riveting through its 114-minute delivery . While some of the long distance sniper shots are rather unlikely with the technology back then (especially at night), the film conveys a believable story that hints sparsely at romance while war cries and musket shots interrupt the innocence of it all. Overall, Mohicans contains a well-woven piece of ferocity, beauty, deceit, and mercy that is magnificently entertaining from start to finish.
In regard to that earlier mentioned subtitle on the cover, I’m not really sure what makes this the “Director’s Definitive Cut.” Although it has been a while since I had seen this film, I remember it quite well and did not pick up on any fresh material that had previously gone unseen to mine eyes. That was a little disappointing, but I’m always cautious with the clever marketing ploys studios label their Blu-ray jackets with. If it’s not the ultimate edition, it’s the super ultimate edition, or the unauthorized edition or unrated or whatever. On rare occasion, these editions do offer something new from what viewers saw in theaters or on the dvd. Unless the added badge refers to something in the extras, it is an otherwise empty subtitle in this particular case. Still, if you have this film on dvd, an upgrade to Blu-ray is not simply suggested, it’s highly recommended.
My last Blu-ray review covered the first season of Glee, and like the hit TV show, The Last of the Mohican’s video quality is strikingly similar. Minute or fine details such as skin imperfections are not visible and a couple landscapes shot from afar appear a tad washed. For the most part, the palette ranging from the British red coats to nature’s splendor, come across in a visually appealing light. There is a brief stay of grain in one cavernous scene, but the shot expires before you know it. Surprisingly, with all the night shots in this movie, there is not more grain present on the screen. The clarity is appreciated with a few strikes against it here and there in this AVC encode and 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
Fire at will, Commander! Arguably the best audible highlight of this disc is the French cannons unleashing hell. The explosive nature of the attack is an all-encompassing show of force both on the screen and throughout the front and rear channels. Even the subwoofer made it a point to not just say hello, but kick the door down and remind you it’s still in the room. Ambient sounds like the flow of a gentle stream or the nocturnal rustling of six-legged critters make for a beautiful experience to the ear from those rear speakers proudly doing their job.
Now for the not-so-good. There was one bit of dialogue spoken during the film from Wes Studi’s character that sounded very tinny…as if the line were recorded with some garage sale sound equipment, not worthy of the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio that is used here. It was by no means lengthy, but it jumped right out in an awkward sort of manner. Some of the body strikes that connected during melee came across a bit flat too. They were more like stale thuds than vicious blows to the body.
Unfortunately there is not a great deal the disc offers here. You’ve got three options and one of them is the expected director commentary. I’m not trying to demean that bullet point as it’s a welcomed addition, but some more substance would be appreciated here. Outside of that are two options, and luckily, the more important of the two is displayed in high def.
• Commentary by Director Michael Mann
• Making of The Last of the Mohicans – Divided into three parts and shown in 1080i, this extra discusses the original novel that spawned the movie, Daniel Day-Lewis’s firearms and physical training for his role as well as what else went into putting this film together (42:42).
• Theatrical Trailers – Here you’ll find some really rough footage of the film’s original theatrical trailers (3:18).
Typically when a film is remade, I’ll check out both the original and revised version. In the case of The Last of the Mohicans, I have absolutely no desire to see the 1936 version. Michael Mann’s work on his own rendition of the film in 1992 was a fantastic achievement and one that is not only difficult to surpass, but will prove to be timeless. It was a well-written and well-directed production with one of the best soundtracks of any film and with Amazon’s current price tag of $14.99, it’s practically a steal.