Dances With Wolves (1990)

“Turned injun, didn’t yeh?” 

★★★★

Directed by: Kevin Costner
Written by: Michael Blake (screenplay), Michael Blake (novel)
Starring: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene

Also called “Kevin’s Gate” (hahaha), Dances With Wolves is a three hour Western epic that actually deserves its long running time. As the director, producer, and star of the film, Kevin Costner uses his mastery of visual storytelling to mend the various racist and formulaic Westerns that have come before it, Dances With Wolves takes the traditional White Demon vs. Humble Native story and gives it a magnificently romantic touch.  

When Lt. John Dunbar of the Union Army decides to take a post on the Western Frontier, his only two friends are his horse and a visiting wolf, which he names “Two Socks.” Dunbar, however, soon expands his circles of friendship when a curious tribe of Sioux Native Americans are willing to see if he can be a point of communication between their community and white men. As Dunbar spends more time in the company of the Sioux people, he becomes increasingly involved in their culture and way of life, and increasingly aware of the injustices and sufferings that Native Americans face.

While Dances With Wolves may be an unrealistic, sentimental appropriation of American history (save for the rather gloomy ending), it is nevertheless a captivating story that has vision and emotion as expansive as the Western Frontier. Partnering with Australian Mad Max cinematographer, Dean Semler, Costner takes full advantage of landscapes that give Dances With Wolves an undeniably cinematic feel. Films today may have the advantage of CGI and 3D effects, but in a time when the genre of the Western itself was only really successfully handled by Clint Eastwood, Costner’s talents in telling a simple story with depth and clarity is something to be lauded (7 Oscars might do it).

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