MOVIE REVIEW: “Dances with Wolves” stars Kevin Costner (Man of Steel, Black or White), Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Gallactica [TV series], Donnie Darko), Graham Greene (Wind River, The Green Mile), Rodney A. Grant (Ghosts of Mars, Wild Wild West), Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman (The X-Files [TV series], The Doors), Tantoo Cardinal (Legends of the Fall, Shouting Secrets), Robert Pastorelli (Eraser, Striking Distance), Charles Rocket (Dumb and Dumber, Hocus Pocus), Maury Chayken (My Cousin Vinny, Mousehunt), Jimmy Herman (Reindeer Games, North of 60 [TV series]), Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse (Into the West [TV mini-series, The Red Man’s View), and Michael Spears (Yellow Rock, Imprint). It was directed by Kevin Costner and written by Michael Blake (Stacy’s Knights, Galloping Ghosts). When Civil War Lieutenant John Dunbar (Costner) places himself in a deserted post on the western frontier, he befriends Native Indians and learns of their culture. Soon enough, Dunbar’s perception of the war and nature of it shifts.
I bought this film on blu-ray roughly a year and a half ago, and like all movies I get that reach four hours in runtime, it was quickly shelved, longing to be seen. I knew of the acclaim that “Dances with Wolves” has received (that’s why I got it); unfortunately, I waited an eternity to see it. Following the life of Lieutenant John Dunbar and his discovery of the Indians on the western front, “Dances with Wolves” brings audiences back to the times of epics. Back when moviegoers would not only pay for a three-hour or so experience that would be dispersed into two segments (due to a swift intermission), but also when westerns were the talk of the town. From my researching, this feature revived the genre by exploring the old west through enriching values and character development. It’s surely a tired dog that needs some new tricks, but that’s where filmmakers need to get inventive, and “Dances with Wolves” is a perfect example of taking the era of time and crafting something beautiful. Kevin Costner helms this project, not only as the lead actor, but also as the director and producer, formulating an experience that is genuine, enriching, and often engaging, as we see how one man discovers the surrealness of nature and foolishness of mankind by interacting with Indians and dealing with hardheaded Civil War soldiers. Spanning almost four hours in length with this new, special edition of the film (the blu-ray wouldn’t let me play the theatrical version), “Dances with Wolves” takes its time to not only develop characters, but allow audiences to discover the splendors of the western frontier alongside Dunbar. There’s a spirituality found in this movie, through both the visuals and Dunbar’s journal notes that are narrated throughout the course of the runtime. It’s elegant and can even be brutal on various occasions. A lot is jam-packed into this adventure, and while some of it is slow moving, everything culminates to a hearty theme and conclusion at the very last moments. I enjoyed “Dances with Wolves” a lot; while it isn’t my favorite epic (save that for “Braveheart”), I took immense joy and interest out of seeing Dunbar’s journey unfold onscreen. You would think that four hours of watching a man talk to Indians and hang out at an abandoned post would make you pass out instantly, but I was locked (I can’t speak for everyone though). The acting is real, the score is tremendous, and the cinematography is magnificent. This film truly captures the beauty of the western frontier by both its sights and sounds. One scene in particular that demonstrates this is the buffalo sequence, where Dunbar and the Indians ride after thousands of baffalo on the plains. Goodness gracious, talk about a huge set to undergo. All of the buffalo were real, as were the plains the men fought on; this isn’t a CGI spectacle that prides itself in tricking the audience with illusions. “Dances with Wolves” is the real deal, and I was amazed at how this crew pulled off such a masterpiece of filmmaking. Costner and the actors were phenomenal in their roles. I’m sure that all of the Indians were portrayed by Native-born citizens, and though some of them may not have done much in the acting business leading up to this picture, they knocked it out of the park. The chemistry amongst the Indians and Dunbar displayed was great and powerful, truly one of the best parts of the feature (really the big story piece to the whole puzzle). Also, the musical score was incredible. Hats off to John Barry for putting together a score of drama, thrills, and wonder that soaks in the majesty of the plains that are displayed. Overall, this was a fun and grueling experience that I surely won’t forget. Of course, in saying that, I must also state that there is a lot (and I mean A LOT) of scenes that take place in this feature. Some mesh together, while sprinkles of spectacles are laden throughout the experience that really widen your eyes. It’s an epic after all, so why can’t it be stupendous in its weight? Most gripes I have with this film pertain to its nature of being an epic; it does have moments of longevity and can drag, however those moments are of few. You certainly have to set aside a whole evening to this picture in order to watch it all (being as how it is, like I said, four hours), but I was glad I did in the long run. It’s not a movie for everybody; if you are a popcorn viewer, you probably will grow restless, maybe check your watch throughout the duration of it. “Dances with Wolves” is a character study while expoling a deep theme that is resonate throughout the film’s run. If you are into stuff like that, you’ll have a blast of a time. Regardless, “Dances with Wovles” lives up to its name as a cinematic spectacle, exhuding wonderful performances and cinematography that breathe life into the art that we call filmmaking. FINAL SCORE: 94%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: