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Dances with Wolves - Extended Cut

2 Ratings: 5.0
Military & War and Westerns movie directed by Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner's 1990 epic won a bundle of Oscars for a moving, engrossing story of a white soldier (Costner) who singlehandedly mans a post in the 1870 Dakotas, and becomes a part of the Lakota Sioux community who live nearby. The film may not be a masterpiece, … see full wiki

Tags: Movies
Director: Kevin Costner
Genre: War, Western
1 review about Dances with Wolves - Extended Cut

Probably Costner's Greatest Achievement Thus Far

  • Sep 16, 2003
  • by
I recently saw Open Range which shares much in common with this film. Both have an unhurried pace, often dwell on what seem to be insignificant details (but which prove significant later), and both make effective use of the setting in which most of the action occurs. This is Kevin Costner's style as director, one which is especially effective in this film. It was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and received seven, including those for best film, director (Costner), cinematography (Dean Semler), adapted screenplay, editing, and sound. There are two essential conflicts in the plot, one which is cultural and another which involves the Lakota Sioux and their hated enemies, the Pawnee. The former was the inevitable result of westward expansion which eventually eliminated most of the Native Americans who opposed it; the latter existed long before that expansion accelerated following the Civil War. This film has a peculiar beginning: Lieutenant John Dunbar (Costner) seems determined to commit suicide as his Union associates face Confederate troops. During a lull, he races his horse across the field which divides them and is seriously wounded. His behavior is viewed as heroism because it inspires what becomes a victory for the Union troops. Later, after he recovers, he requests assignment to a military outpost in South Dakota. The clear implication is that he wants to get as far away as he can from "civilization." Upon arrival, he find the outpost abandoned. The supplies are unloaded and then he is alone, except for his horse and a curious but cautious wolf which observes him from a distance. Through a series of events, he later becomes involved with a Lakota Sioux tribe and a personal transition then begins which....

It would be a disservice to those who have not as yet seen this film to say any more about the plot. Suffice to say that there is a great deal of sometimes violent action which Costner (as director) brilliantly juxtaposes with moments of exquisite tenderness and deep reflection. All of the performances are outstanding. One of the strongest is provided by Mary McDonnell (Stands with a Fist), a white woman and recent widow who has lived most of her life among the Lakota. I especially enjoyed Wes Studi's work in this film as the Toughest Pawnee, (as well as in The Last of the Mohicans as Magua) and Graham Greene's performance as Kicking Bird, Stands with a Fist's surrogate father. Some of the most effective photography recreates a buffalo hunt during which Dunbar helps his friends and neighbors to obtain the food and hides they need before the arrival of winter. There is also an especially well-staged attack on the Lakota camp by the Pawnee in which Dunbar also plays a key role. The "civilization" he rejected eventually follows him westward, forcing him to make a predictable choice. Dunbar's assimilation reminds me of one experienced by John Blackthorne (Richard Chamberlain) in Shogun following his immersion in 17th century Japanese culture. By the time a choice had to be made, neither hesitated and each made his decision for reasons which reveal so much about the new values to which each is committed. Some have criticized this film for being so obviously sympathetic with the Lakota and so critical of the society from which Dunbar fled. They have a point. It is important to remember, however, that Costner is telling the story from a specific point-of-view. He selected historical material which gives his film a degree of authenticity, to be sure, but whose greater purpose is to expedite as well as enrich the narrative. He, his cast, and crew should be very proud of what they achieved together: a thoroughly entertaining film of a very high quality.

Be sure to purchase the Special Edition DVD which offers so many supplementary items which include commentaries by Kevin Costner, producer Jim Wilson, director of photography Dean Semler and editor Neil Travis, a new extended version with never-before-seen additional scenes (236 minutes), and a new "The Creation of an Epic" retrospective documentary.

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