This blogger is a longtime fan of director Michael Mann, counting Heat, The Insider, and Collateral among my favorite films. But I still can’t find much love for what is probably his most popular movie, The Last of the Mohicans, which seems to lack his typically intense focus and clarity. Based on the James Fenimore Cooper novel, it falls prey to the sometime fate of literary adaptations: failure to capture a narrative too big to fit into feature film length. It’s not until the long chase sequence where it truly becomes a movie, and Mann engages his superlative skills in exploring character through elaborately staged action, as he did even more so with the extraordinary downtown L.A. shootout in Heat.
The most interesting thing about The Last of the Mohicans is that the apparent star Daniel Day-Lewis is not actually the title character or the focus of the story. Hawkeye possesses many names (born Nathaniel Poe and also known as Natty Bumppo), but one of them is not the title of the novel or film. If I’m not mistaken, Chingachgook (Russell Means) doesn’t speak a word until the very end, which also happens to be the end of his people.