Dir: Hugh Hudson
Hugh Hudson’s sprawling epic about the American War of Independence was poorly received at the box office and for good reason. However, while it isn’t great, there are positives about the overall production. It follows a Fur trapper called Tom Dobb (played by Al Pacino) and his son Ned (played by Sid Owen who most Brits will know from EastEnders) who arrive in the port of New York on the wrong day. On 4th July, when the revolution is launched, Tom and Ned’s boat is commandeered by the army and they are given an IOU in its place. With their livelihood and home now gone, Ned enlists into the army behind his father’s back for five coins and the promise of fifteen acres of land. Not wanting to lose the last member of his family, Tom follows his son and enlists in order to protect him. The rest of the film follows the father and son’s survival as they wander from one historical battle to another. Along the way they are pursued and punished by Donald Sutherland’s Sgt. Maj. Peasy and tormented by Richard O’Brien’s over the top Lord Hampton. Nastassja Kinski plays Daisy McConnahay, a disgraced and idealistic aristocrat who goes against the grain and supports an independent America. While Pacino’s character is convincing in that he doesn’t really want any part in the war, Kinski’s is not. Even less convincing is their slow-burning romance. The pair only meet around four times in four years and it is only ever fleetingly. One of those times McConnahay nearly reports Tom and Ned for desertion. McConnahay’s rebellion is never explored and while the content is balanced between both sides, it only furthers the confusion. I like that Pacino’s Tom never really takes sides but only settles doing something he’s good at, it shows a side of the quiet majority and the people who generally don’t get involved from free will. Although Pacino’s accent is a little shaky, his performance is pretty strong with a couple of standout scenes. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for anyone else. Sid Owen and Dexter Fletcher are both okay as Ned – although there really wasn’t any need for Fletcher to portray a slightly older Ned, he didn’t look or sound anything like him and it was something of a distraction. There was nothing to Donald Sutherland’s performance, his accent was also off but made worse by the fact that he is actually British. Nastassja Kinski wasn’t right for the part either, looking more like her dad in a wig than herself. Some of the scenes are brilliant, filmed in that dream-like haze that so many epics were filmed in back in those days, but the editing is appalling. This is the real reason why people didn’t like it, it had no fluidity. The acting, length of the film and the locations have all been accused but for me it all comes down to how the whole thing was muddled together. Indeed, many years later Hudson released a final cut to high regard. Timing was the issue apparently and that would make sense but unlike Heaven’s Gate – a film that it is so often compared to – there really isn’t that much in the original for people to care about to make a final cut that appealing. Al Pacino didn’t act again for four years because of the disappointment of the final film. Think of all the great scripts he would have been given between 1985 and 1989! If that isn’t reason alone to hate the film, I don’t know what is. Okay, so hate is harsh word, but I’m not going to be watching it or its final cut anytime soon.