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This movie won an Oscar for best Cinematography

‘Legends of the Fall’ (R)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 13, 1995

In Edward Zwick's "Legends of the Fall," a family chronicle set in the early 1900s, U.S. cavalry officer Anthony Hopkins builds a ranch in the Montana heartland to shelter sons Aidan Quinn, Brad Pitt and Henry Thomas from his government's slaughter of Indians. But when Julia Ormond, Thomas's beautiful fiancee, comes into the home, a new kind of warfare rages among the brothers.

"Legends" is the kind of movie in which tragedy, fate and thunderous pronouncements are the norm. "Say that once more," thunders Brad Pitt to eldest sibling Quinn late in this overwrought, episodic drama, "and we are not brothers." The story is narrated by One Stab (Gordon Tootoosis), Hopkins's old Cree scout who intones with purple-prose profundity.

"Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and live by what they hear," says One Stab. "Such people become crazy. Or they become legends."

The legends, we are to believe, are people like Pitt, an untamable spirit who breaks horses, speaks Cree, cuts out the hearts of the slain to liberate their spirits and has really excellent hair.

The crazy ones write scripts like this.

It doesn't take long to realize that "Legends" is an unintentional howler. The movie's deterioration starts right around the time youngest brother Thomas -- to his fiancee's horror -- volunteers to fight for the English in World War I. Quinn follows him too, and Pitt tags along to protect Thomas. So while Brits, Canadians and Germans die in the muddy fields of Europe, Pitt rides around on horseback, hair still excellent, taking care of Thomas. Which army unit is Pitt in, anyway -- the Cowboy Detail?

Pitt's vigilance is not perfect. And for the rest of this dreadfully long movie, Pitt will blame himself for Thomas's death. We will see many more deaths, oh, so many deaths. And misery, betrayal, heartbreak, ridiculous plot twists and, after he sustains a stroke, Hopkins apparently doing a composite impression of Popeye and Quasimodo. Pitt is the cause of everyone's troubles, concludes One Stab, "a rock they broke themselves against." But the Stabmeister is wrong. This movie is the rock that everyone breaks themselves against. And no one has the decency to pick up the pieces.

LEGENDS OF THE FALL (R) -- Contains violence, carnage, profanity and pseudo-arty nudity.

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