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In the mountains of Montana, retired cavalry officer Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) lives with his three sons: responsible Alfred (Aidan Quinn), idealistic Samuel (Henry Thomas) and Tristan (Brad Pitt), the wild middle brother. When Samuel returns home from university he brings his fiancée Susannah (Julia Ormond) with him. Both Tristan and Alfred are immediately attracted to her, and she to Tristan. But World War I takes all three brothers away to Europe. Their experiences on the battlefields of France and on their return home will change their lives forever.

Review by Stuart Whitmore:
A sprawling saga of brotherly love, Legends of the Fall is many movies in one. It’s a tragic romance, a war story, a Western and a prohibition era gangster flick. But mostly it will be remembered as the film that launched a thousand Brad Pitt calendars. Pitt’s turn as the coltish Tristan catapulted the actor, already a brooding presence in films like Thelma and Louise and a River Runs Through It, to superstardom and beyond.

Hardly surprising given the fact that the camera swoons over Pitt like a lovestruck thirteen-year-old. In fact it swoons over everybody and everything. This is a film where everyone gets backlighting—no matter where the sun is—and even the mud-and-guts horror of World War I is shot like a beautiful moonlit ballet. We’re deep in melodrama territory here, with director Zwick (also responsible for the warm and fuzzy thirtysomething TV series) breaking out the man-sized tissues at every opportunity. The cinematography, not surprisingly, won an Oscar. It’s the kind of Vaseline-lensed re-imagining of the old West the Academy just can’t resist.

But as overblown yarns go this is a decent one. Zwick keeps the story galloping forward (his main reason, he explains, for cutting the three deleted scenes included on the DVD) and the star turns are solid across the board. Pitt can pout with the best of them, while Ormond suffers and smiles with equal grace, the eye of the storm that engulfs the Ludlow men. Hopkins plays the curmudgeonly patrician with his usual aplomb, coming across like the first of the survivalists, holed up in the mountains distrusting the government and shooting anything that moves.

The backdrops get equal screen time and deservedly so. Canada, standing in for Montana, has seldom looked more stunning, and the production design is first rate. Those responsible for the look provide a featurette and an audio commentary to explain their art, but the highlight of the disc’s special features is the commentary by Pitt and Zwick, who are entertaining company for the whole running time. There’s also an isolated music track, with a jump to menu so you can get straight to your favourite passage of the treacly, fawning score. Not a legendary picture, but an enjoyable one for fans of Pitt or the genre.

Published January 10, 2002

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CAST: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond, Henry Thomas, Gordon Tootoosis

DIRECTOR: Edward Zwick

RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes

Widescreen 1.85:1; Audio commentary by Edward Zwick and Brad Pitt; audio commentary by cinematographer and production designer; Deleted scenes with optional director commentary; 2 making of featurettes; Theatrical trailer, Talent profiles. Languages: English 5.1, German 5.1. Subtitles: English, German, Greek, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Icelandic, Hindi, Hebrew, Dutch, Bulgarian, Turkish, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Arabic.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: November 7, 2001

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