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During the American Civil War, Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) is mistakenly dubbed a hero after a failed suicide attempt inadvertently sees him lead a number of Union troops to a much needed victory. Granted a posting of his choice, Dunbar requests a secluded position on the western frontier, but upon his arrival is shocked to find it abandoned. With his only companions a curious wolf and his horse, Dunbar soon finds himself befriending a neighbouring Sioux Indian tribe, and gradually is accepted as one of their own. In doing so he begins to favour the Indian lifestyle - an issue that becomes more and more pertinent when American soldiers begin to threaten the Sioux way of life.

Review by Craig Miller:
While Kevin Costner’s recent career has enjoyed little in the way of big time cinematic successes, there is no doubting that the late 1980s to the early 1990s, was full of them, with the unforgettable Dances With Wolves the proverbial jewel in his Hollywood crown. Today, this award winning picture still shines as an example of fine movie craftsmanship, worthy of its accolades including seven academy awards (one of which was the illustrious Best Picture Oscar), and is certainly one of the best films of the 1990s and a credit to Costner as a filmmaker.

With consummate ease Costner personalises the conflict between the Native American people and the white man, giving it a firm grounding in reality through history that many western/‘cowboys and Indians’ films before it rarely attempted, being much happier to settle for ‘us good, them bad’ as the major conflict. Something you will certainly not see in this film. While it does focus on this over simplified conflict issue at times, Costner uses it to introduce the more defining themes of the story, exploring the human condition through people, love, and acceptance.

As well as Costner, a lot of the credit for the film’s success must go to Aussie director of photography Dean Semler. Semler uses every trick in the book to give this picture a truly grand feel, capturing the essence of the wild west and of 1860s America. His camera work is extraordinary and the use of the landscape inspiring which creates a feeling of intimacy in a vast land you could be forgiven for thinking should be totally void of it.

There is little that doesn’t come off for Costner, whether it be the fantastic cast or the locations he chose, through to the Michael Blake’s screenplay (based on his own book) or the emotional feel he strives for. It all works beautifully.

This collector’s edition may disappoint fans looking for a little more than the two commentaries included on this 2 disc set, but as a DVD release overall it’s well worth attention. Both commentaries start off a little on the daunting side as you prepare for almost 4 hours of talking on each, but the longer they go on, the more interesting they become, giving you a lot more feeling for the movie. Costner’s and producer Jim Wilson’s commentary is the highlight as they discuss in detail the film, the shoot and even why it was postponed for over a year due to an unsatisfactory parting line for one of the major characters.

You may think that an extended version of this classic film may drag on and on and on, but it certainly doesn’t watch like a 4 hour movie. The extended runtime with the seamlessly added extra footage, I am delighted to say, adds even greater depth to this wonderful movie.

Published December 18, 2003

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(US, 1990)

CAST: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney E. Grant, Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman, Robert Pastorelli

DIRECTOR: Kevin Costner

SCRIPT: Michael Blake

RUNNING TIME: 227 minutes

PRESENTATION: Anamorphic Widescreen 16:9 enhanced, DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with director Kevin Costner and producer Jim Wilson, audio commentary with director of photography Dean Semler and editor Neil Travis


DVD RELEASE: October 9, 2003

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