USA / 1995
Director: Edward Zwick
Writers: Susan Shilliday, Bill Wittliff, from the novella by Jim Harrison
Cast: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond, Henry Thomas, Karina Lombard
This vast and handsome movie – it won an Oscar for John Toll’s cinematography – is like one of those fat family sagas the older Hollywood directors made in the ’50s. Anthony Hopkins is the patriarch, an army man retiring to the Montana Rockies (for which Alberta in Canada stood in as location).
His three sons are constitutionally at odds. The youngest, Samuel (Henry Thomas), brings a fiancée (Julia Ormond) to the ranch and she sets the hearts of both steady Alfred (Aidan Quinn) and close-to-the-earth tearaway Tristan (Brad Pitt) fluttering. World War I resolves this issue in part but sets up others which resound down the years.
A graduate of thirtysomething, director Edward Zwick had previously made Glory, another period saga starring Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington. If the movie is not Hopkins’ finest hour, it certainly sealed the legend of Brad Pitt, who goes the extra mile to be enticingly repellent and is loved shamelessly by the camera the scuzzier and more driven he gets. The best acting, in the traditional sense, is in the unfortunately abbreviated performance of Henry Thomas as the good son.