16 May 2000 | poetamelie
Dang!I didn't expect it to be so good!
I didn't realize John Milius had this fine film in him (after all, he gave us RED DAWN). I stand corrected. I liked the film so much, I had other members of my family watch it, and they loved it, too. How pleasantly surprised I was by Tom Berenger's superb performance as Teddy Roosevelt. Watch for Berenger as he stands at the back gate of the caboose of a train he's commandeered to transport his troops. He has no dialogue, but get a load of the look at his face and his bearing. He just stands there, beaming, so gloriously alive with the spirit of the man and his times. Look for standout work by Gary Busey (I really wanted him to say "Mr. Roosevelt! Look at the firepower!") as the feverish Southern general Joe Wheeler, Illeana Douglas (a fresh surprise as Alice Roosevelt), Brad Johnson (who has easily the most beautiful smile in Hollywood) as the outlaw-turned-hero Henry Nash, Nick Chinlund (a fave "X Files" creep) in a great scene as Frederick Remington, and Chris Noth as the privileged Craig Wadsworth. All are tremendous. Sam Elliott turns in both subtle and commanding work as Captain Bucky O'Neil, a man as heartbreaking when he bids his wife goodbye as he is terrifying and awesome when he breaks his troops in to the concept of killing. My quibbles with the production are few: silly, Attenborough-style casting of George Hamilton as a too-handsome William Randolph Hearst, cheesy use of the "St. Crispin's Day" speech from Shakespeare's KING HENRY V, very little information on what the war was actually about from both sides (the opening credits block the vintage headlines that supposedly bring us up to speed). Still, the battle sequences are masterfully staged (watch the horses run by Remington while he paints--gorgeous shot!), the training sequences are fascinating, and Berenger's expression once the Battle for San Juan Heights is over is simply heartwrenching.