Dances With Wolves-DTS

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

As an actor, Kevin Costner has certainly made his mark upon Hollywood and the world. As a director, Kevin Costner directed a movie entitled “Dances With Wolves” that managed to win 7 Academy Awards and even win the Best Picture of the year. Does the dismal rating of his next directorial endeavor entitled “The Postman” overshadow how great Dances With Wolves really is? No. Dances With Wolves is a 3 hour story of the last days of the Frontier and the last days of the Civil War as well. While not choosing to concentrate on battles like “Bull Run” or “Gettysburg”, Dances With Wolves starts out as quietly as it ends. We see a scene that is somewhat reminiscent of “Gone With the Wind” with the endless amount of bodies lying in the field. We immediately see that war is not pretty, and even moreso, the Civil War in the battlefield was no picnic. As we meet Lt. John Dunbar (Costner) we see that he’s an inch away from getting his legs cut off, the only thing that saved them was the lack of infection. In an immense amount of pain, he struggles to pull his boots back on and is in somewhat of a trance. He beomes inspired, grabs a horse and rides out into the battlefield tempting the enemy (Confederate Army) to shoot him. What transpires is somewhat of a miracle, he doesn’t get shot, he doesn’t die, but the army comes to his rescue and the tides change.

Dunbar is given his choice of assignments and requests to be assigned to the farthest Western post, so he can see the Frontier, something he has always wanted to see. After a brief stop in Ft. Hays, Kansas where we see how war affects people in very different ways, he’s off to the great Frontier. Stumbling upon an abandoned fort, Dunbar decides that this is where he belongs and takes all the necessary supplies and starts what will be, his new life. Dunbar is driven, there’s no doubt about that, we see that he has a very strong work ethic and a pride in his Army and country (though divided it might be). He is a simple man, a peaceful man who wants no trouble. However, it’s about this time that the story takes off…

When we first meet the Sioux Indidns, we’re not sure what to think. There is a rival tribe of Indians called the Pawnee, who seem to be more of the stereotypical nature (war paint, scalp white men…). Dunbar slowly makes friends with the Sioux, and through many trials and tribulations, earns their trust. To them, the white man isn’t exactly an enemy, but more of an unknown. It’s up to Dunbar to establish peace with these men, and hopefully they can learn from each other. The holy man of the Sioux, Kicking Bird (Graham Greene) is obviously one of the wise men of the tribe. His opinion holds a lot of weight with the rest of the Sioux. Greene is totatally opposite of his role in Maverick, though he plays both parts in a splendid manner. While not a lot of verbal communication goes on between Dunbar and Kicking Bird, they are the two closest men and a vital link between the Sioux and the white men. It’s about this time that we see Stands With a Fist (Mary McDonnell) again, we learn that she has lost her husband and was told by Kicking Bird to grieve until he says so. The main issue is that Dunbar starts to fall in love with her, as she is also a white woman. Stands With a Fist escaped at an early age and ended up with the Sioux as a member of their “family”. She has all but forgotten her English roots and is what can be considered the closest thing to a translator for Dunbar.

As Dunbar becomes more and more familar with the Sioux, the more and more he respects them and their ways. He no longer considers himself a member of the Army and even has an Indian name of “Dances With Wolves” (hence the title of the film). He was given that by the Sioux when they see him trying to befriend a curious, local wolf. The Army eventually ends up at the abandoned post, and with the help of the Pawnee, are determined to track down Dunbar and take even more of the Sioux’s land from them. Of course, I won’t give away the ending, but Dances With Wolves is something that is a marvel to see and is well worth the 3 hour plus viewing time.

Video: How does it look?

The sheer video quality of this movie is enough to want this disc. Costner has captured the beauty of the Frontier in all it’s glory. The image is shown at it’s original 2.35:1 image and is indeed enhanced for 16:9 TV’s. I saw no evidence of artifaction, colors were sharp, bright and clear. For a film ten years old, this one looks like it could have been made yesterday.

Audio: How does it sound?

Being a DTS disc, you know that if anything, you can expect a great audio soundtrack. This is certainly the case with Dances With Wolves. While it doesn’t get too many opportunities to shine, when it does–it does! A few examples are at the beginning of the movie, when the snipers are trying to pick off Dunbar. The bullet whizzes by from front channel to rear. Many times during the movie, the horses riding sound great as well. Dialogue and the soundtrack are superb as well.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Some might complain that this is a two disc set while the Dolby Digital version is on a single disc. The DTS takes up more space than it’s more compressed counterpart, thereby making the need for a second disc. I think it’s a wise decision, as I feel it improves the video quality as well. There are some cast bios and production notes, but the most interesting thing is the commentary. It’s a stereo commentary with Costner out of one front channel and Jim Wilson out of the other. This is a must have for any fan of the film and a must watch for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

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