Kevin Costner directs himself, Graham Greene and Rodney A. Grant in this western where a Union Army lieutenant requests a posting on the frontier and slowly builds a kinship with a local tribe of Lakota.
Gorgeous, magisterial, humane. Approaches the wild west with the same wonder and fascination I’ve had with it since I was a little boy. Costner captures his landscapes and people with an eye that rivals Lean and Ford. Possibly my favourite cinematographer, Dean Semler deserves full credit for his masterful on location work once again. You cannot deny the adventure sequences when they come are rousing, sustained, organic and heroic. The buffalo hunt is unlike anything else ever achieved on-screen. Yet it is the intimate interactions that keep me coming back to Dances With Wolves, keeps it so high in my esteem. Watching the tribe slowly warm to Costner’s gentle outsider, their fear turning to patience mirrored in the wolf Two Sock’s fascination but caution around Lt. Dunbar. People looking for “issues” might read that as me comparing the natives to a predatory beast but I think Costner’s soldier is the wolf in this dynamic. Something the Sioux know to be innately fearful of yet in isolation one can learn to domesticate through time and understanding, trade and shared values. And it is a generous film, warm in humour and allowing time for characters with little to do with Costner’s lead their own moments to shine; Tantoo Cardinal as Greene teasing wife is particularly good value. An undisputable favourite of mine, though I do stick to the original three hour version.
Perfect Double Bill: Open Range (2003)
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