Reviews of Dances with Wolves
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“Dances With Wolves” is another great period piece that I can watch at least once a year, never tiring of the western frontier against mesmerizing setting and John Barry’s Oscar-winning stirring music… The motion picture is told through the words and experiences of a civil war soldier, Lieutenant John Dunbar, and Costner makes it an intensely spiritual journey which challenges the individual in so many ways… After his suicidal and successful ride on the battlefield, Lt. Dunbar accidentally leads Union troops to victory against the Confederates… He is allowed to select his own reassignment… John opts to retreat into the wilderness, to the furthest frontier, where both the Sioux and Pawnee Indians still rule… The film perfectly captures the finest kind of American audacity when Costner rides out alone in the Lakota plains, wearing full dress uniform and holding the large American flag to formally introduce himself to his Sioux neighbors… and the worst of America, the cruelty exercised by the army when it’s found he’s a Yankee soldier turned Indian and arrested as a traitor… But it’s the gentle humor and intimate moments of the movie which give Costner’s ambitious epic Western its special flavor: scenes with Dunbar and his wild wolf Two Socks not daring, at first, to eat from his hand; his funny first encounter with a peaceful man Kicking Bird (Graham Greene); his love story with a stolen white woman living with the tribe called Stands With a Fist (Mary McDonnell); his relationship with a fierce impulsive warrior Wind in His Hair (Rodney A. Grant); and many others as Black Shawl (Tantoo Cardinal) advising her husband on affairs of the heart… With its share of bow-and-arrow fights, joyous buffalo hunts, and unprecedented tender feelings for the American Indians, “Dances With Wolves” remains an amazing accomplishment and a magnificent tribute for a culture lost over time… Sure Avatar is a rip-off, and that’s why!
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Costner as John Dunbar, a Union Civil War officer, is suicidal. He’d rather lose his life than lose his foot, but miraculously he survives to be sent to the outermost western post that the army has on the frontier. His sense of purpose in life has been renewed.
The green and brown and yellow of the rolling hills and rare blue of a stream below and the blue and pink and orange with white puffs of clouds above is an epic setting! The frontier is a grand place to tell this story of two cultures.
It is about a man who becomes physically separated from anyone else of his race. And seeds have been planted in his mind that many of his race are crass and foul. He has a loyal horse and a wolf who hangs around without vicious intent as his only company. He perseveres in cleaning up the fort and keeps a journal of memories with some sketches. It is important to notice that his first instinct is not to shoot or attach something he does not understand unless for protection, but to be curious and observe and try to communicate. Maybe he does this because he understands he is a small person in this big frontier and yet he shares a connection with everything.
Dunbar meets Kicking Bird (Greene), a holy-man, and Wind In His Hair (Grant), a warrior of the Sioux people. He finds Kicking Bird’s inquisitiveness easy to identify with. Wind In His Hair’s first instinct is always anger and so they do not grow as close as quickly. He eventually meets the wise chief Ten Bears who listens to all the opinions of the lead men in the tribe before making a decision. The Sioux people are efficient in moving camps, not wasteful of anything, have a strong family and community structure as illustrated with Kicking Bird’s wife and children in particular, and become good friends to Lt. Dunbar. Dunbar also meets Stands With A Fist, a white woman who when she was very young was the only survivor of a Pawnee attack on her family’s farm. She was found by Kicking Bird and has been living with the Sioux for some twenty years. She becomes a translator to help with communications. Of course a romance forms and Dunbar/Dances With Wolves is married to Stands With A Fist. Dances With Wolves participates in a Buffalo hunt and in protecting the tribe from an attack by the warring Pawnee. Dances With Wolves is ready to leave the fort and live with his new wife and the Sioux people, but he has one more encounter with some US soldiers. He has changed allegiances and to the soldiers that brands him a traitor. They don’t understand life on the frontier in the same way he now does. It’s about a man who learns a new life and gets a new name.
I thought all the performances were wonderful. The Sioux’s ritual chants were deep and connected to the world. John Barry’s score was soaring and triumphant. “The only word that comes to mind is harmony.”
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.