The Last of the Mohicans

1992, R, 117 min. Directed by Michael Mann. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Jodhi May, Russell Means, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Oct. 2, 1992

The breakneck pace of The Last of the Mohicans affords you little time to realize it's just a simple and straightforward adventure yarn – an Indiana Jones in Buckskins but what an old-fashioned pleasure it is. Contrary to what you might expect, this fourth film version of James Fenimore Cooper's novel, once mandatory reading in grade school, is no revisionist apologia for American history, like the politically correct Dances With Wolves. In fact, The Last of the Mohicans is as “American" (read: white and Anglo-Saxon) as can be in depicting the British, French, and most Native Americans (it's set in 1757 during the French and Indian War) as untrustworthy and brutal. Furthermore, its hero – the renamed Nathaniel Poe aka Natty Bumppo aka Hawkeye, the white scout raised by the last of the Mohican tribe – personifies the principled strength and romantic allure of the frontiersman, impervious to the materialism and imperialism which motivate the battle for the American colonies. Of course, history has ultimately proven Cooper wrong: today's Natty Bumppo would be considered a freak by contemporary standards. Mann seems a peculiar choice for directing this film, given his slick, dreamy ouevre (TV's Miami Vice and the films Manhunter, Band of the Hand, and Thief). Here, he forsakes pastels for earth tones, finding a visual grandeur in the story's New York landscapes that doesn't overpower the narrative. Day-Lewis makes a credible transition from versatile, respected Oscar-winning actor to hunk here in the role of Poe/Bumppo. (The arresting image of the lithe, graceful Day-Lewis stealthily running through the forest is the film's recurring motif.) His occasionally flippant remarks are the film's only tie to any modern sensibility; otherwise, it seems like a movie from another time. He and Stowe, who plays the feisty daughter of a British general entranced by this frontier hero, make for a sexy couple who come from different worlds but share a common soul. A word of warning: The Last of the Mohicans rarely flinches in depicting the eye-for-an-eye savagery of war. Although not explicit in the way you might expect, it nevertheless requires you to screw your courage to the sticking place. Perhaps that's a tribute to its ability to take you along its journey without much effort – real enough to elicit a visceral reaction, romantic enough to remind you it's only a movie.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Michael Mann Films
Chris Hemsworth stars in Michael Mann's cyber thriller.

Louis Black, Jan. 16, 2015

Public Enemies
Michael Mann's film is a human-scale biopic of the gangster folk hero John Dillinger.

Kimberley Jones, July 3, 2009

More by Steve Davis
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
The original girl detective makes a modern return

March 15, 2019

Tyler Perry's A Madea Family Funeral
The original mad black woman faces her mortality, and the end of the series

March 8, 2019


The Last of the Mohicans, Michael Mann, Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Jodhi May, Russell Means, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle