“You see this man? His name is One Stab. He’s a venerated elder of the Cree nation. He’s counted coup on hundreds of his enemies. He’s our friend and he’s thirsty” – Tristan Ludlow
If you’re a man and you haven’t seen Legends of The Fall, then you need to go ahead and fix that.
Legends of The Fall on the surface is a love story that many of you will write off wrongly as a chick flick due to it not having AK-47 and Assault Rifles but trust me, it is a movie for the boys. We nominated Legends of the Fall as a manly movie because of 3 things: the story – which is about the strength in brotherhood / Family, the indomitable human spirit (Tristan) and finally the Native American warrior known as One Stab (Gordon Tootoosis).
The movie details the events of a family led by Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins), a veteran of the Indian Wars and his sons Alfred (Aidan Quinn), Samuel (Henry Thomas) and Tristan (Brad Pitt). The brothers are tight but very different, Alfred being studious and lawful with an eye for politics, Tristan being a wild-child, raised by his father’s best friend (and ex-nemesis) “One Stab” of the Cree nation, and Samuel the youngest. Along with the family lives Decker (Paul Desmond) and Pet (Tantoo Cardinal) an outlaw mixed couple, Decker being a white man and Pet being Native American are hiding away under the watchful eye of the Colonel along with their young daughter named Isabel Two – named after the Colonel’s estranged wife Isabel.
A Woman To Sever A Brotherhood
One day Samuel brings his new fiancé Susannah (Julia Ormond) home to meet his family. Of course every one of them took to liking her being that a woman was a rare sight for them up in the mountains. The couple happily settles in with the Ludlows but soon World War 1 occurs and Samuel (wanting to be like his father) says that he is enlisting. Alfred does the same in order to earn his honor and Tristan goes along with them in order to watch over his baby brother. The war doesn’t bide well for Samuel and he is shot and killed which leads Tristan to take revenge by crossing enemy lines and collecting scalps from numerous Germans. While Tristan learned this ritual from One Stab, his superiors saw it as lunacy and discharged him honorably to return home with his brother. Tristan, following the old Cree custom of removing the heart to set the soul free, cuts out Sam’s heart and places it in a box.
When Tristan gets home, the sadness of his lost brother and the confusion of it all, leads him to have sex with Susannah. Of course she had always held eyes for Tristan even when his brother was alive and Alfred was making advances on her. The act happened quickly and passionately with Tristan using her as a diversion to forget his brother’s loss and Susannah fooling herself into thinking that Tristan loved her. Not soon after does Alfred return from the war, wounded but decorated as a commander and he being in love with Susannah tries to force Tristan to marry her. Alfred yells at Tristan for sleeping with her and immediately pushes up on her to marry him despite everything (Alfred was kind of a loser for this). When Tristan vanishes (as he was prone to do) without telling anyone for years, Susannah finally breaks down and marries Alfred and the two move away to the city where he pursues his political dreams.
Isabel Two and Tristan’s Revenge
Years later Tristan returns bearing gifts and finds that his father who was always a strong man, had suffered a severe stroke and had lost the ability to speak. It was a brutal scene that Sir Anthony Hopkins made very real to us viewers (this is one of the moments that will choke you up). He hugs his son and welcomes him back and Tristan finds that Isabel Two (Karina Lombard) who had always said that she was meant to marry Tristan, was now a beautiful young 20 yr old woman. He marries her and it breaks Susannah’s heart.
Ranch life is not working out financially so to make money for the family, Tristan takes advantage of prohibition and starts selling bootleg whiskey in town. This angers his brother Alfred who is running for a seat in politics but this is the least of the troubles that Tristan’s new work has caused. His operation was in direct conflict with the Irish mob and they threaten him for crossing their territory but of course Tristan ignores them. A few years after Isabela Two bears Tristan a beautiful son (to the jealous eye of Susannah who couldn’t give Alfred a child), The Irish Mob shoots her dead while they were riding back home and sends the Native in Tristan to go full-on war mode…
… In other words Tristan turns into One Stab…
The scenes depicting Tristan exacting revenge on those boys were some of the more memorable of the movie as they would cut away from Tristan’s guerilla warfare to One Stab (now raising Tristan’s own boy) putting war paint on the child and the two of them singing war chants into the night. Tristan brings hell on the Irish and returns home to hug his son and see his wife to a peaceful burial.
The Return of Alfred and Family
In the final scene, a posse of supposed law men rides up to the ranch of the Colonel to ask for Tristan to being him in for the murders. The broken Colonel emerges from the house, shotgun in hand letting them know it was not about to happen. A gun fight breaks out and Tristan, One Stab, the Colonel and Decker hold off the men until hope is lost and they are saved by none other than Alfred the politician, wielding a rifle as if he had never stepped foot off his father’s ranch. It was fucking beautiful. Susannah (the woman that had caused the rift amongst the brothers) had taken her own life and the family stood strong in the end, having revenged the killers and back together again despite the painful losses.
One Stab does a war dance wanting to take scalps but the kills had belonged to Alfred. The closing scene shows an old, white bearded Tristan fighting (yes hand to hand) a bear whose finger he had removed as a kid during one of Stab’s warrior rituals. It was an epic ending to an epic movie – the indomitable spirit of Tristan, a warrior who was born to the wrong race in the wrong time period.
Legends of The Fall is a manly movie, and one of those that will never get old to this author.See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.