Dances with Wolves (1990) *****
Directed by Kevin Costner
Every frame of Dances with Wolves drips with the fact that this was Kevin Costner’s labor of love. Dances with Wolves would easily make my list of the top ten most visually beautiful films I’ve ever seen (maybe even my top five!). This is the third Costner performance I’ve seen lately after Field of Dreams and JFK and I have to say that Costner is becoming one of my very favorite actors. Unfortunately, Dances, Fields and JFK are really the only movies of Costner’s that are important for a film buff to see. Even if this is the last Costner film I ever see (which I’m sure it won’t be) I will still have an affection for him because of the three excellent films mentioned earlier—the best by far being Dances with Wolves.
This film is close to four hours!!! I had to watch it in pieces, but yet, when I turned it back on, I was almost immediately drawn emotionally back into it, mostly because each and every shot is so beautiful. Costner has really only directed three movies, and maybe I can understand why. Costner’s patience and attention to beauty and detail must make it impossible for him to be satisfied with a short schedule and limited resources. I do hope he directs more, because Dances with Wolves is absolutely one of the best directed films I’ve ever seen.
It’s stunning! Visually gorgeous! Absolutely breathtaking! Yet, on the story level, this film is almost equal to its aesthetic achievements. The first two hours of the film are better than the last two hours. Don’t think that is a criticism at all. The last two hours are better than ninety percent of the movies I’ve seen.
The beginning of the film shows that Costner is a surprising hero when he survives a suicide attempt by riding his horse through the gunfire of the
And that is exactly what he does. It doesn’t happen quickly. As a matter of fact, almost an hour and a half is spent with the slow and frustrating process of becoming one of them. This integration may never have happened had it not been for Stands with a Fist (Mary McDonnell). She was taken as a young girl after the Sioux murdered her family. They raise her not as a captive, but as one of them. Because of
The end of the film is also extremely well done. The Sioux move their camp since the white men are nearing their frontier. As they are leaving,
The same believability goes as well for the Sioux. They are not portrayed as perfect. Yet, their actions in the film are consistently believable. Given the circumstances throughout the film, I absolutely believe this story would be possible. Of course, some of the circumstances themselves are stretching it a bit (a convenient white woman who conveniently speaks English who conveniently just lost her husband). With a film as unpretentious and glowing as Dances with Wolves, it earns the right to be judged by its spirit and its purpose. On these aspects and on the aspect of its visual achievement, Dances with Wolves goes down as one of the very best cinematic pleasures I’ve ever encountered!