Geronimo: An American Legend (1993)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

USA, 1993Story by , Screenplay by John Milius, Cinematography by Produced by , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by , , Academy Awards 1993.

It’s the late eighteenth century and the American government is putting into practice the reservation system that would come to to define the destruction of the country’s indigenous population. Members of the Apache tribe are cornered into an agreement to be resettled from their free and open land to a reservation where they will become corn farmers, but not all members take to farming very well. In particular, the warrior Geronimo () finds that the sedentary life is not for him, and after a confrontation with cavalry soldiers leads to slaughter, he takes half the population of his reservation and goes back out into the wild. The story, centering as it does on the Apache wars leading up to Geronimo’s eventual surrender, is told from the point of view of a green young military recruit () who admires his superior officer ’s ability to connect with Geronimo in his attempt to find a peaceful reconciliation between him and the authorities. The American government, represented in particular by a respectful but not entirely honest , only intends to make promises, never to keep them, getting away with its duplicitous tactics by coming back at its foes with more force every time. Tragic and intelligently rendered, this thoughtful and pensive western didn’t work for most audiences at the time because of its being a passionless story that doesn’t make up for its lack of adventure and sex with any kind of sharp drama between its characters. Today it is further diminished by our harsher criticism of non-white tales told from white points of view, but in this case the magic and mystery of the Noble Savage stereotype is kept to a bare minimum by Studi’s always giving the character as much detail as his powerful performance is permitted.  The story somewhat meanders and is too determined to be reasonable, it never manages any emotional bump in its rhythm, but it does have gorgeous cinematography and isn’t difficult to sit through.

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