In the empty plains Montana, shortly before, during, and after the First World War, three brothers compete for the love of one woman and the respect of their stern father. As the years pass, tragedy, heartbreak and finally death will test the bonds of blood that hold the family together.
This is exactly the kind of film that snags the best cinematography award at the Oscars, while being laughed out of court on grounds of arch-melodrama, overblown storytelling and some very silly native mysticism. It’s a pretend epic that does wonders for the Montana tourist board, but very little for the dignity of its usually-dependable acting cast.
Director Edward Zwick is so satisfied he has hit the mother lode of American drama, a Gone With The Wind for boys, he can’t see the gas for the wind blowing in Brad Pitt’s lustrous hair.
All the way through its arduous running time, this is plastic masquerading as silver. In its squabbling brothers and overbearing father, it’s trying to echo Shakespeare, but Pitt, doomed Henry Thomas, and Aidan Quinn are strapping stereotypes saddled with lumps of cheesy dialogue, as gorgeous and unreal as their National Geographic homestead. Poor Julia Ormond, supposedly the catalyst for all these inter-Ludlow travails, with her weepy eyes and yearning voice, seems far to fragile and wispy for these three rugged boyos to care a j0t about. Indeed, not a whisker of the film feels like it looks. Off to war go the younger brothers, where it’s muddy and terrible but merely a device to for Pitt’s free spirited middle bro to gain that essential lifelong burden of “pain”. He expresses this torment by riding over the hill then fifteen minutes later (several years in narrative terms) riding back again followed by a heard of wild horses. Then as the local native witch doctory fellow expounds: “He was a rock they broke themselves against.” Damn him, for his mystical subtext. He’s like a song lyric in physical form.
In all, Legends Of The Fall is a grand bore, more laughable than stirring. So big everything becomes blurry and distant, so beautiful it could be ad for male hair products..
A grandiose quasi-Western epic so insanely corny it's almost cool. Almost.