Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) is looking out over the area that he has come to know and with one single act changes his life. He has been caught up in the Indian wars and with the relinquishing from his hands the sword and scabbard that have been at his side he is now at peace with the world. He no longer has that want or will to fight another human being. He gathers up his family and heads to an area up around Helena, Montana. Here he will raise his three boys Alfred, Tristan, and Samuel (Aidan Quinn, Brad Pitt, and Henry Thomas). His wife will leave him for the winters are to brutal for her.
The boys will begin to grow and Samuel will even head to Harvard and become educated. He will bring home his fiance Susannah (Julia Ormond) to see the family and their surroundings. The men will bond together and rekindle their brotherhood. Their father will look upon his future daughter in law with fondness. Samuel's two brothers are also taken by the beautiful Susannah. So much so that when Samuel speaks up about joining the Canadian Army and going off to fight in Europe Susannah turns to Tristan for comfort. This unsettles Alfred and with this one action another turning point occurs in the family.
Samuel will die and Susannah and Tristan will have a brief love affair. It will be Alfred who will take her to be his wife. Tristan will take off to find himself and when he returns Susannah will be married. Tristan will eventually bootleg some alcohol and come into conflict with Sheriff Tynert (Kenneth Welsh) and the O'Banion brothers John and James (Robert Wisden and John Novak) who handle most of the liqueur for the area.
There is much to this movie that is covered rather than just the beautiful scenery. You encounter the love between brothers and family, as well as, love between a man and woman. You learn about how one can get caught in problems that are not necessarily of their own making. You also learn that blood is thicker than water.
Director Edward Zwick does a wonderful job with this marvelous cast and brings you into the family as if you were right there at the kitchen table. You feel the pain of loss through death. You also feel the strength of character as you see Brad Pitt in a different light. It is from this movie the Pitt will achieve super stardom. So sit back and enjoy this period piece of beautiful cinema.