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dances with wolves

Director: kevin costner (debut)

starring: kevin costner, mary mcdonnell, graham greene, and rodney a. grant


REVIEWER: lyall carter


Lieutenant John Dunbar, assigned to a remote western Civil War outpost, befriends wolves and Indians, making him an intolerable aberration in the military.

The Oscar's celebrating the films of the 1990's was a bit of a shock. Favoured directors Scorcese, Coppola, and Frears were overlooked for Best Director by actor turned first time director Kevin Costner for Dances With Wolves. The film went on to grab another two Oscars that night including Best Picture. 

It would be fair to say that one of the reasons Dances With Wolves won despite the inexperience of the director who helmed it was down to the Academy's obsession in the 80's and 90's with big sweeping epics like Out of Africa, The Last Emperor, Braveheart, and The English Patient

But that would be unfair both on Costner and on the film itself because even nearly 30 years later although there are some small parts that are understandably a bit dated, Dances With Wolves is still a bonafide epic. 

A Civil War soldier develops a relationship with a band of Lakota Indians. Attracted by the simplicity of their lifestyle, he chooses to leave his former life behind to be with them. Having observed him, they give the name Dances With Wolves. Soon he is a welcomed member of the tribe and falls in love with a white woman who has been raised in the tribe. Tragedy results when Union soldiers arrive with designs on the land.

For a more modern audience, Dances With Wolves may seem a little slow and at just over three hours I can understand that argument. But its in the slow unfolding that we experience the wide open plains of the American frontier, the beautiful world and life of the American Indian's, and Dunbar's growing love for them and their plight. Its a film that purposefully doesn't rush, that takes time with character development that more than pays off. 

Costner is perfect for the role of Dunbar, cynical of the 'system' he finds himself in and willing to push at the boundaries. He is surrounded by a brilliant ensemble cast as well with veteran actor Graham Green giving a memorable performance. 

A bonafide classic that takes its time with the material that gives us a Hollywood epic of yesteryear. 


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Dances With Wolves is available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital from all good disc and digital retailers. 

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