Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Legends of the Fall

Legends of the Fall was released more than a decade ago. However, it is a timeless classic with plenty of twists and turns. With a star studded cast, breath-taking scenery and superb writing, this film was destined to become a Classic. Classic it is. I can blow the dust off of this one, put it in the DVD player and it still seems as fresh as the first time I saw it. A saga of love, betrayal and family struggles that keeps viewers riveted from start to finish.

Legends of the Fall is set during World War I and the Prohibition era. An Army Colonel (Colonel Ludlow played by Anthony Hopkins) retires in the West after resigning his Commission. The treatment of Native Americans at the hands of the Government seems to weigh heavily on his conscience. The rugged outdoorsman opts to raise his family on a ranch where the gritty lifestyle is too much for his wife Isabel (Christina Pickles), who moves back to the city, leaving Colonel Ludlow to raise their three sons Tristan (Brad Pitt), Alfred (Aidan Quinn) and Samuel (Henry Thomas). The movie is narrated by a good family friend, One Stab (Gordon Tootoosis).

As the boys mature, Samuel falls in love and becomes engaged to Susannah Fincannon (Julia Ormand) who is apparently enamored by Tristan. Before they have a chance to marry, the three brothers end up fighting against the Germans as members of the Canadian Army. Samuel is killed during the war. Tristan and Alfred return to the ranch, but Tristan leaves to search for himself. While Tristan travels the world, Alfred ends up marrying Susannah. Tristan returns after several years to find that his father has had a stroke and his brother has married Susannah. Tristan ends up marrying Isabel Two (Karina Lombard), the daughter of Decker (Paul Desmond) and Pet (Tantoo Cardinal) who live and work on the ranch. Tristan ends up engaging the local rum runners, cutting into their profit margin, while Alfred ends up running for Congress and getting elected. The situation ends up in a showdown with tragic results.

Legends of the Fall is based on a novel written by Jim Harrison. The screenplay was written by Susan Shilliday and William Wittliff. The characters are diverse and intriguing with idiosyncrasies that make them unique and interesting. The interactions between the characters are plausible and make for strong storylines. The plot ebbs and flows interspersing excellent action scenes with thought provoking drama. The dialogue is sharp, avoiding hackneyed language in favor of less predictable speech. Although the foreshadowing indicates some of the plot direction, the plot is not very predictable. Strong emotional sequences spring from the many plot twists. The writing was exceptional.

Not only does Legends of the Fall contain a few acting superstars, but the roles in which they are cast are well chosen. Brad Pitt is a surprisingly good fit as the adventurous Tristan. Although Pitt is a pretty boy, he really sells the part as a hard corps frontiersman with an extreme edginess. Pitt easily carried this film in the lead role, which could have been easily miscast. A grittier actor might not have balanced all the traits that Pitt was able to offer his character. Hopper was also spectacular. The process of mimicking a stroke patient and having the audience believe it is not easy. Hopper manages to convince viewers that half his body is paralyzed. I’m not sure how he was able to hold that look for so long, but it was effective. Hopper and Pitt offered awesome star power with great chemistry to lay the foundation of the strong performances in this film.

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Fletch said...

Well, I've always said that period pieces age well because...duh, they're pre-aged! :) Futuristic flicks age the worst, of course.

Anyway, I like Legends, but it was pretty much ruined for me years ago when a group of friends and I watched it and just mocked it the entire time. Enjoyable? Yes. Classic? I don't think so.

John Smith said...

One thing I have noticed regarding the reviews of this film is that people generally pan it completely or love it. There is a bit of middle ground...but I guess it may have been formulaic enough to turn people off. Thanks for posting.