Recent reviews have delved into the conflict and companionship that can surface when humans and aliens begin connect or compete. But "aliens" do not always have to be other beings, and the settings do not have to be distant planets. Yesterday, this column reviewed "Avatar," which has often been called "Dances with Wolves" on a foreign planet. "Dances with Wolves," very different from other films being produced at the time, earned the Oscar for Best Picture of 1990.
The film is set at the time of the American Civil War. It begins with its injured hero, Lt. John Dunbar (played by Kevin Costner), attempting to end his pain by committing suicide by riding his horse into a Confederate battlefield. His action undermines the enemy, and the Union Army comes to consider Dunbar a hero. Grateful superior officers offer John his choice of posts. He chooses the western frontier. Not long after arriving, John meets an Indian tribe. Among its members are Kicking Bird (played by Graham Greene), the medicine man, and Stands with a Fist (played by Mary McDonnell), a white woman who has lived with the tribe since her childhood. As they get to know each other, John and the tribe become close. At first, they struggle to communicate since they speak different languages, but eventually, they become so friendly they give John his own name: "Dances with Wolves."
Costner directed this film, he does amazing work, both as a director and an actor. Audiences get to see things rarely depicted on film, such as a majestic, but disturbing buffalo hunt.
The supporting cast is quite strong. Graham Greene is excellent. His character is wise and caring. Mary McDonnell is also great as Stands with a Fist, the recently widowed woman who falls for John. She becomes a translator for him and the Indians. These actors, along with Costner, earned Academy Award nominations for their performances.
"Dances with Wolves" is easily one of Kevin Costner's best films.