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Legends of the Fall Movie Review

tristan zwick war film

1994 – Edward Zwick –

Director Edward Zwick's 1989 Civil War film Glory was a tragic-heroic exploration of the realities of war and racial oppression, an important movie about a disenfranchised people struggling against the odds to fight for personal freedom. Set during and after World War I, Zwick's Legends of the Fall, a story about three brothers who love the same woman, has a grand, important tone but is not quite as significant as it seems to want to be.

Featuring breathtaking cinematography that captures the beauty of natural landscapes and, briefly, the horrors of war, Legends of the Fall maintains visual interest. The film has the look of a big western epic, which it strives to be dramatically as well. Sporadic narration by the Native American One Stab (Gordon Tootoosis) attempts to lend a mystical and mythical presence, as when he says of Tristan (Brad Pitt), “Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, but they become leg ends.” However, the character of Tristan and the events in the film do not really merit the description “legendary.” Tristan seems merely a troubled man, prone to violent outbursts and bouts of depression arising from his failure to save his brother Samuel (Henry Thomas) from getting killed in the war. His relationship with Susannah (Julia Ormond) also comes across as melodramatic since the two are in love so quickly after supposedly grieving for the lost brother.

Although the legend fails to live up to the implications of its title and the self-important tone it attempts to take, as a drama the film works better. The performances of the actors are more than adequate, the scenery is beautiful, and the melodramatic story is well-paced and sufficiently intriguing. The tension between the brothers Tristan and Alfred, between Tristan and Susannah, and between Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) and his sons provides an interesting reflection on the ways that a fairly close family can be torn apart and then find healing.

Cast: Brad Pitt (Tristan), Anthony Hopkins (Ludlow), Aidan Quinn (Alfred), Julia Ormond (Susannah), Henry Thomas (Samuel), Karina Lombard (Isabel Two), Gordon Tootoosis (One Stab), Christina Pickles (Isabel), Paul Desmond (Decker), Tantoo Cardinal (Pet), Robert Wisden (John T. O'Banion), John Novak (James O'Banion), Kenneth Welsh (Sheriff Tynert), Bill Dow (Longley), Sam Sarkar (Rodriguez) Screenwriter: Susan Shilliday, Bill Wittliff Cinematographer: John Toll Composer: James Horner Producer: Marshall Herskovitz, William D. Wittlif, and Edward Zwick for Bedford Falls; released by Tri-Star MPAA Rating: R Running Time: 133 minutes Format: VHS, LV, DVD Awards: Academy Awards, 1994: Cinematography (John Toll); Nominations: Art Direction/Set Decoration, Sound; Golden Globes, 1995, Nominations: Director (Edward Zwick), Motion Picture—Drama, Original Score (James Horner), Actor (Brad Pitt) Box Office: $66.5M (domestic).

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