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Geronimo DVD- A review by Addy
Well its time for another Western review from moi, but this time it's something a little different inasmuch as it is about Native Americans or one in particular in this silver screen production. Geronimo was released in 2005 with a purpose of attempting to redress some of the wrongs done to the Native American peoples that are all too often omitted from the history books. As mentioned the film charts the American Governments "Geronimo Campaign"
Geronimo- The Man, The Legend
Geronimo was an Apache chief of the Chiricahua tribe, one of the most renowned Apache tribes during the period when Native American people flourished. Geronimo was born June 16, 1829 and died February 17, 1909 and his native birth name was Goyaałé, but more often than not it was spelled by white writers as Goyathlay or Goyahkla. Nevertheless whichever way it was written it translated to "one who yawns." This however was to pale in significance to the man's adoptive name "Geronimo." The name was derived from a legendary battle led by Goyaałé against Mexican soldiers, braving their muskets to have at them with a knife. Geronimo is the exclamation made by the Mexicans similarly to when an Englishman cries out "Oh God." For more than a quarter of a century Geronimo led the Chiricahua Apache against the United States government and their tidal wave of mass genocide and incarceration of the Native American people, and during his lifetime Geronimo lost two wives and a child as a result of atrocities carried out against his people.
Release Date: 06/06/2005
Running Time: 1 Hour 50 Minutes
Director: Walter Hill
Rodney A. Grant
The films main focus is centralised around the latter years of Geronimo's conflicts with Yankee soldiers and the sheer resilience of from an American perspective such an unorthodox hero. The tenacity of Geronimo seems himself and a ragtag band of braves who in reality were also made up of old men and women and were suffering from immense hunger etc managing to evade capture whilst being searched for by three quarters of the United States army. So the task is given to1st Lt. Charles B. Gatewood, an ethical gentleman who is charged with the task of bringing in Geronimo and his motley group.
The Positive Points
Like many Western films, the Utah landscape forms the backdrop of the film creating majestic visuals and making Geronimo have the look and feel of an epic. It also makes for very effective action sequences and the film as a very un-claustrophobic feel to it. There are the occasional indoor scenes but largely Geronimo is filmed outside.
Wes Studi gives an empathetic and intimate performance as the great Apache chief and his acting experience combined with the knowledge of Native American culture etc make for a class act. The honour, plight and qualities of Geronimo are expressed by Studi and without a doubt he puts his very best into this great character he is playing.
As already slightly touched upon the battle scenes are well staged and breathe life into a film where certain character performances assassinate what could have been an astounding movie. There is also a reasonable degree of realism to the action scenes as opposed to the older western movies with over dramatic deaths and lack of bullet holes or even a modicum of blood.
Some attempts are made at exposing a little of the harsh reality that befell the Native peoples such as white men collecting Apache scalps (Men, women and children) for money and the fact that peaceful tribes were attacked and murdered for their scalps, who can tell the difference after all of which creed it came from but again these are dealt with by good wholesome white men with the films direction firmly focusing on putting a different tinge on history. Now i am not saying all whites back then were wicked murderers although most were bigots the Indians, and all Indians were saints but it is as if the director is scared his film will be a flop if he doesn't still manipulate the film to reflect Americans good Indians bad.
The Negative Points
Jason Patric is in the role of Lt. Charles Gatewood, and sadly his performance is superficial. The character is weak and his torn internal conflict over ethics never really develops to the level needed. It seems the director is more concerned with trying to re-write American history in glossing over atrocities by showing a southern man as a Yankee officer on the back of the American Civil War and also portraying him as a good wholesome soldier that is understanding to the issues of the Native Americans, but it fails to be anything more than a mediocre affair.
This warped sense of ethos where even bad guys are really good at heart extends to Al Sieber, Robert Duvall's character, who is an Indian fighter and tracker for the army. This character does not hide is disdain, contempt and repugnance of the Native American people but has a patronising albeit begrudging respect for Geronimo because how can such an inferior race have such a tenacity for fighting, tactics, and bravery. In truth Al Seiber is a rather repugnant character.
Gene Hackman who is a strong actor and could contribute so much to the film is given such a flimsy bit role as General Crook. It almost seemed a complete waste having him in the film and I suppose the only incentive for him was getting paid for hardly sod all.
The script does not seem to have a real sense of direction and as a result of this it is sometimes confusing and detracts from the quality of the film. The director needed to settle on what story he wanted to tell or more to the point how he wanted to tell it and from which perspective and allow the script as well as the acting to do the same.
Whilst the film is based upon a true story it is not here that one will glean a true reflection or understanding of the story but more distressing is the few areas where accuracy is sacrificed in return for creating a positive image of the American government's role in the Indian Wars as well as the general public's actions. As a 12 certificate it is a film that can be shown to children but for me it requires input on behalf of the parent to give the children the facts, unbiased rather than let this film incite potential impressions, or choose a better option of film. For this I can recommend Geronimo starring Scott Ingersol. The film has some strong selling points but with poor direction at the helm it was never going to be a masterpiece. Western fans in general will get something out of the film for definite and as something to watch on a Sunday afternoon you could do a lot worse than this film.
Thank you for the reads/rates, Addy
© July 2008