Some people say family is more important than anything. “The Legends of the Fall” tries to prove this thesis through its story of the Ludlow family. As Col. Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) and his three sons experience joy, rage, jealousy, love, guilt and every other human emotion, the whole movie boils down to the fact that they are all each other has.
After witnessing the barbaric treatment of American Indians by the U.S. government, Ludlow retires from the Army. He moves to Montana and builds a ranch far from civilization, which he despises. His oldest son, Alfred (Aidan Quinn), is reliable and responsible. Tristan (Brad Pitt), the middle son, is the opposite. Wild and impulsive, he is constantly risking death and living life on the edge.
The youngest, Samuel (Henry Thomas, the “E.T.” kid), is the baby of the family, loved by all and cared for to the point of death by his older brothers.
“The Legends of the Fall” revolves mostly around Tristan. The film tries hard to make him into a bona fide legend. He’s handsome, strong, adventurous and has a certain sense of mystery about the way he thinks and acts. The film attempts to give him godlike status. With all of the things he does that hurt the people he loves, he’s not perfect. The film only makes him slightly interesting, but not too deep.
When Samuel brings home his fiance, Susannah (Julia Ormond, who’s reminiscent of Madeleine Stowe), she is immediately intrigued by Tristan. But soon the three brothers are off to fight World War I in France, much to the dismay of Susannah and their father. When they return, it is brother versus brother in the fight for Susannah, and this slowly breaks the Ludlow family apart.
The characters here all inspire ample interest. They move the plot along briskly enough, and their reactions and decisions make up the meat of the movie.
The acting is very good all around. Quinn stands out by making Alfred understandable and sympathetic, and Ormond plays the girl skillfully.
But Hopkins steals the show with his majestic performance as Ludlow. He brings finesse to his role and gives the colonel grace and style. The power of his acting comes across in full force whenever he has a scene where he shouts or becomes angry. And when Ludlow is struck with a stroke, Hopkins still commands respect with his character even under the guise of paralysis.
Occasionally, “The Legends of the Fall” gets too carried away with the mysticism of Tristan. But when the film is merely a big soap opera about the history of one family, it entertains on surface level.
ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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