Written by Clayton Self
Legends of the Fall is one of those movies that sets its own standards for greatness and actually achieves them. That is very rare in cinema. Legends has a great Director, Edward Zwick, who brought the recent hit The Last Samurai. The performances are amazing, and the cinematography superb. This is a movie that has aged very well since its release in December of 1994. So, here we are eleven years later, with a movie that still captures the heart.
Legends of the Fall follows …he story of the Ludlow family. Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) moved his wife and three sons to a ranch in Montana to escape the democracies of Government. He had a bad experience in war and wants no part of a government in the lives of his family. His wife, not happy in seclusion, leaves William with their three sons, Alfred (Aidan Quinn), Tristan (Brad Pitt) and Samuel (Henry Thomas). Together, the four men live on the cattle ranch, with a Cree Nation Indian called One-Stab (Gordon Tootoosis), and a ranch hand named Decker (Paul Desmond), who also has a wife and daughter.
The action mainly follows Tristan, after he attempts to save Samuel’s life in combat and fails, the family is put into a whirlwind of betrayal and self-destruction. Samuel had a fiancée before he died named Susannah (Julia Ormond) who falls in love and consummates with Tristan, much to the disapproval of Colonel Ludlow and Alfred. Alfred leaves the ranch to become a congressman, and Tristan, unable to cope with the guilt of his brother’s death, abandons Susannah at the ranch to travel the world. Susannah ends up marrying Alfred, and when Tristan returns to find his father frail after a stroke, he marries the daughter of Decker, Isabelle (Karina Lombard). With Cattle prices bottomed out, Tristan becomes a bootlegger in Helena, which results in his new wife’s death. This may all sound depressing, but ultimately, the story is about the unbreakable bonds of blood and brotherhood, and it ends in a fitting and inevitable way.
Legends of the Fall won Best Cinematography in 1994 for its amazing work done by John Toll. The film looks beautiful, but ultimately it’s the performances and touching events of heroism and honor that drive this piece to glory. Legends is a movie that has stood the test of time, most likely due to its themes that still hold meaning today.
The award winning cinematography deserves an amazing transfer and that is exactly what it got. The new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer improves upon the original release. The colors are vibrant and well-defined; as the seasons change, this movie lets you know it, and every shot gets the detail it deserves. The flesh tones are beautiful, and stand apart from the mixed backgrounds. There is no distortion anywhere and all the specks and grain is gone. Every scene is shown in beautiful, flawless clarity.
Also, a movie with many environments, each of which is given great treatment here. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track pulls you into the world which this movie creates. The war scenes are booming, placing you in the middle of the action. The rear speakers provide gunshot ricochet, and echoes of booming cannons. Alternately, each scene on the ranch and elsewhere provides a lush of environment noise that makes use of each speaker. Among all this wonderful sound, not a line of dialogue is used. This mix is much clearer than the original, especially with James Horner’s moving and epic score, which accentuates every scene it fills.
This Deluxe Edition takes away some of the features from the old disc, but includes some new unique ones that make it worthwhile:
Commentary with Director Edward Zwick and star Brad Pitt. Commentary with cinematographer John Toll and Lilly Kilvert: Brad and Ed are very funny to listen to, and the second commentary is mainly just technical garb and a lot about what inspired its look.
Three deleted scenes with optional director commentary: most interesting here is a scene where Brad Pitt is in a psychiatric ward, and tries to scalp the Warden..
Featurettes on production design and the original featurette from the first release: pretty basic documentaries on what gives the film it’s unique look and the original documentary features brief actor interviews.
Actor and Crew Filmographies: Basic text lists of all the films the actors have done in recent years.
Isolated Score Highlights-the real gem of the bunch. Allows you to listen to James Horner’s beautiful score by itself. Each scene can be selected individually.
If you do not already own this film, this is the version to buy. The digital transfer’s effect on the cinematography makes it worth the money by itself, but the isolated score highlights are amazing as well. If you already own the original release, you are missing out on a great video quality with this disc. Go buy it!
Special Features List
- Commentary with Director Edward Zwick and star Brad Pitt
- Three deleted scenes
- Actor and Crew Filmographies
- Isolated Score Highlights