They escort Cora and Alice to Fort William Henry to find it under siege by the French, and along the way discover the homestead of their friends, the Camerons, razed by Hurons. Conflicts emerge when Nathaniel assists the colonial volunteers to leave the Fort to defend their homes and families. Cora, who, to the dismay of Major Heyward, has developed feelings for Nathaniel, defends him. But Nathaniel is arrested for sedition and ordered to hang. Following a British surrender to French troops, Nathaniel travels as a prisoner with the British survivors back to Albany, but they find themselves attacked on the road by Magua and the Hurons. An enthralling battle ensues and Nathaniel, Chingachgook and Uncas manage to escape with the women and a few other survivors into the wilderness. With the Hurons in hot pursuit, it is left to honour and sacrifice to ensure their survival.
There is an epic quality to this film that is all impressively squeezed into a concise running time (108 minutes) that rewards multiple viewings. The battle sequences are expertly staged, complex and not shy on the brutality. Mixing staged gunfire, with tomahawk melee attacks, the violence is sporadic, thrilling and genuinely exciting. Nathaniel is not an unbelievable fighting machine, but a hardened hunter who is fuelled by adrenalin and his growing fondness for Cora. Mann simultaneously builds a compelling lead character (assisted by another fantastic performance from Daniel Day-Lewis), creates a believable and passionate romance that never overwhelms the story (though is essential to the narrative) and expertly recreates this turbulent historical period.
The conflicts and rivalries are genuine, the motives of the villains acceptable, and the heroics earned. While the battle sequences prove to be the most appealing feature, it has equal concerns for the adventure, and the scope of the film is what makes it memorable. Throughout the journey we are taken to a number of different locations around Northern America and Lake George, including Albany, Fort William Henry, Huron land and the beautiful surrounding wilderness. With Nathaniel at the centre, his comrades in tow, their story takes them across the rugged, war-torn and politically divided American landscape. What makes it so engaging is the fact that the primitive intelligence and warrior skill of Nathaniel, Chingachgook and Uncas is matched by Magua and the war party, and the plot of The Last of the Mohicans is scarred with painful death and loss. The heart-wrenching conclusion always leaves me with shivers. Truthfully, this is primarily due to the wonderful score, which I have decided is one of my favourites in film. A near-flawless film, I can highly recommend The Last of the Mohicans, which I think is Mann's finest film amidst his 1990's golden era, which would later include Heat (1995) and The Insider (1999).
My Rating: 5 Stars (A)