Last of the Mohicans is set in 1757 in the third year of a war in North America over land and territory. Mostly, the war is between the English and the French, but each side has taken up Indian allies to assist them. The main story in the Last of the Mohicans is the love of an adopted Mohican, Hawk-eye, and Cora, the daughter of an English general. There are also other stories embedded in the movie, which are harder to recognize. For instance, a second love story between Hawk-eye’s brother and Cora’s sister.
The life of Magua is another tory that the movie seems to slightly touch, but doesn’t elaborate on. As for the historical part of the movie, I think it is accurate in the sense of the fighting style of the English. The “proper” way of war might be fine in Europe, but against the Indians, standing in a line with bright red coats is not the way to win. “the soldiers’ uniforms splendid though (and that’s a historic fact) idiotically ornate and impractical for warfare. It wasn’t until about 1916 that the British and the French saw the light and stopped wearing all that Day-Glo, easy target colors” (Prof.
Jahiel). For example, at the beginning of the movie, Magua killed one soldier marching in the line, and the guy next to him didn’t even do anything until the commander said to attack. They would also fire at the same time, leaving the whole squad vulnerable to attack while they reloaded. By fighting in this manner, it allowed the Indians to fight much more strategically. They would fire muskets three at a time, so they could stop an oncoming rush while the others reloaded. The Indians also took advantage of the English firing scheme.
After the whole quad of English soldiers fired their muskets, the Indians would rush in with axes and knives, then fall back. This strategy would allow just a few Indians to take out a relatively large number of English. “The British, we learn by the proof in the pudding, are inept warriors, and lousy tacticiansPlus, they’re seemingly accurately described, both from the point of view of the historian and political correctness” (Prof. Jahiel). I also think the film did a good job with the weapons used throughout the movie. The spears, bows, axes, and muskets look authentic enough for me.
The one weapon that I couldn’t recognize was the axe-type club that was used by Hawk-eye’s father. I found this to be a remarkable weapon, used very skillfully. Also Hawk-eye gets his name from his skill with a musket. He always seems to have a gun when he needs it, and he never misses. Another thing that caught my attention was the canoes used in the river chase scene. I’m not sure if this was an accurate representation of what the Indian canoes looked like, but they were very pleasing to the eye, especially if they were make with the crude tools the Indians had to work with.
As for people, places and actions, I think the film is mostly historically accurate because “His [Mr. Mann, director] dedication to historical accuracy is not only admirable, it makes Mohicans a convincing experience — and a great-looking historical epic” (Alex Patterson). Professor Jahiel states that the old forts, cannons, and encampments are all painstakingly genuinized. I think the central action or event would be the lives of Hawk-eye and Magua. The English and the French were responsible for the war, which brought them together, but as enemies. The war creates a myriad of conflicts — military, personal, tribal and romantic. In addition to rival Waddington, Day- Lewis must contend with Stowe’s patriotic father, fort commander Maurice Roeves. He must also defeat bellicose Wes Studi (as the infamous Huron Indian, Magua), who has a blood account to settle” (Desson Howe).
As for the history part of the movie, I think it was accurate in the fact that each side had Indian allies, but I think the Indians fought mostly when there was a distinct purpose, not just because they were at war. At first the major conflict seems to be the war tself, but I think it might be Hawk-eye’s and Magua’s lives. The war is there, but it is in the background. “The movie touches quickly on the fine points of British-French-Indian-settler conflicts, so that they can get on to the story we’re really interested in, about the hero who wins the heart of the girl” (Roger Ebert). Hawk-eye seems to be caught in his own war, meaning he comes from a French background, has Mohican customs, and is in love with an English girl. He always seems to do the just thing even when outside forces make it hard for him.
Like when Hawk-eye chooses to stay at the fort instead of going with his friends to defend their homes. He stays because of Cora, even though he knew he would be arrested. As for Magua, he is desperate for revenge, and will go to any lengths to kill the “grey-hair”, or General Munroe, and his daughters. In the film Magua says ‘when the Grey Hair is dead, Magua will eat his heart. Before he dies, Magua will put his children under the knife, so the Grey Hair will know his seed is wiped out forever. ‘ Magua blames the loss of his children and wife on the war, and more specifically, on General Munroe.
I think another sub plot that comes out of the film is the idea of change. Or at least reality sets in on some of the characters. For instance, General Munroe decides not to fight for his fort and just leave. This was something that was not previously done, or even accepted in the English Military. Also I found Cora’s ex-boyfriend, the noble, to be an extremely brave and honorable man. At first I thought he was, quite frankly, an arrogant jackass until the end when he sacrificed himself for Cora and Hawk-eye. One thing to keep in mind when watching the film is that it shows the ar from a different angle than what the public might be used to.
It focuses more on an Indian point of view and a more individualistic view. By Indian point of view I mean most representations of wars in America make us look to be the good guys, in this film there is a somewhat neutral eye from which the war is viewed. What I mean by individualistic is that each person, Hawk-eye, Cora, General Munroe, and Magua are involved in the same war, but see things totally different. One person viewing the film will most likely see something different or special about the film than another person would.