Dances With Wolves
(1990)











Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 3 Hours and 3 Minutes


Reviewer: Jones
Grade: A+

You know those movies that everybody says are really good, but you still don't feel compelled to see them? The ones that they say you will kick yourself for not having seen sooner once you finally do get around to watching it for the first time?

I think you do. I think we've all had that experience at one time or another. For me the most recent of these experiences would have to be "Dances With Wolves".

"Dances With Wolves" is a film the likes of which have not been seen before. It begins with a discussion of whether or not to save a man's leg and ends with a man and the woman he loves going on a journey to find a life of happiness and prosperity together. It is a beautifully told story that I will definitely be wanting to revisit again someday.

The journey of Lieutenant John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) begins with an ill-fated attempt at bringing about his own demise that leads to him being elevated to hero status amongst his colleagues in the ranks of the Union army. Through this heightened status he is given the choice of where he would like to be stationed next. He chooses the farthest reaches of the frontier, because he has always wanted to see how the frontier of reality compares with the frontier of his dreams. When he arrives, he finds his new post vacant of any activity. Those who were there before him have been long since gone. Being the dutiful soldier that he is, Dunbar begins maintaining the post with the hope that one day more men will be sent to help in the cause. He keeps a journal in which he records the happenings of each day. More often than not the journal is composed of little more than his orders to himself in maintaining the post, but one day a wolf stops by and looks over Dunbar's activities with genuine curiosity. After the wolf stops by the next couple of days, Dunbar decides to name him Two Socks, because of his front legs having the appearance of a pair of socks. A friendship is born between the two and Dunbar's horse. Their interaction continues throughout the coming days and it seems Dunbar may never make contact with another human again.

One day an Indian comes across his post and everything changes. At first their is tension between the Indians and this lone white man, but, over time, a bond is formed. Communication is difficult until a young white woman, who has been living with the indians since she was very young, finds her English-speaking tongue again. Once this breakthrough is made, relations prosper between Dunbar and the Indians. They befriend him and he becomes a part of the tribe. He is given the name Dances With Wolves by the tribe and a romance begins to form between him and the English-speaking woman Stands With A Fist. It is a love story that is beautifully conceived and delivered. Life is good until inevitable confrontations with another tribe and the forces of the white men rear their ugly heads.

Kevin Costner ("Tin Cup") took the dual role of actor and director for this film and he flourishes in both roles. He is stranded in the frontier much the same as Tom Hanks is stranded on that island in "Cast Away". His character has a much more genuine and likable feel to him than that of Hanks. I really wanted this man to succeed in restoring his post and fulfilling his life, whereas I just wanted to see Hanks get off that island and get on with his miserable life. Zemeckis should have taken notes from Costner on how to accomplish this affect with the startling ease that Costner manages to bring it to realization. Costner delivers many tender moments that will wrench your heart in ways that I never felt him capable of.

Mary McDonnell ("Mumford") also delivers in beautiful fashion in the role of Stands With A Fist. She is given a very difficult role and she pulls it off without any hitches. The scenes where she is struggling to find the right words to say in English are wonderful to watch, as she sells the performance well enough to make you think that she truly does not know the words that she seeks. Why this woman is not in more films is something that I cannot explain.

Graham Greene ("The Green Mile") gives his usual steady, sure-handed performance as Kicking Bird, the man who wants to give Dunbar a chance. His character feels that Dunbar could be a man who could create treaties between the Indians and white men. He often becomes frustrated by the lack of progress in the communication between he and Dunbar due to the language barrier. Throughout he remains committed to his newfound friend, doing whatever he can to make the friendship grow. It is through the chemistry between Greene and Costner that this relationship is allowed to blossom.

There are many heartfelt, beautiful memories that I have from this film. The lush cinematography that brings frontier life to wondrous reality. The scenes when the Indians are trying to decipher Dunbar's words and vice versa. The scenes between Costner and McDonnell when you can see the love they have for one another in every fiber of their being. I could go on and on, but I shall save the rest of the discovery for you to undertake on your own.

Every time I think of this film I will be drawn back to the feelings of joy, wonder and warmth that it gave me. It is both gorgeous to look at and unceasingly enchanting to experience.

Stories like this are rare and the masterful telling of them is rarer yet. You owe it to yourself to be consumed by this movie in much the same way that I was. You will thank yourself for it.

I know I do.