Michael Mann’s 1992 film ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ is a special piece of cinema. In fact it is so special it has earned one of the highest accolades in film and television in being named in Bo Ideal’s top 5 favourite movies ever. Ace.
One of Bo’s honeys once told him that a truly great movie needed two things – pretty people and explosions. I guess she hadn’t seen any of Michael Bay’s filmmaking attempts but The Last of the Mohicans has plenty of both.
But what sets it apart from the likes of Bad Boys 2, Pearl Harbour and Transformers? One of the main reasons is the character of Nathaniel Poe – the adopted white son of Chingachgook, last chief of the Mohican tribe and played by the acting juggernaut himself – Daniel Day-Lewis.
This is a character who can teach us all a thing or two about being a man. Anyone who has seen the movie will understand what I mean. And if you are one of the unlucky few who hasn’t – well…get on it. This is a mandatory piece of the Iron Qualities curriculum.
Beholden to none – not living by another’s leave
The character of Poe and his adopted Mohican father and brother live off the land in Frontier lands in Young America during the mid 1700s. They make a living trading furs and hunting what food they need.
They are living in the middle of the French and Indian War and they become entangled in it when they rescue the daughter (played by Madeleine Stowe) of a high-ranking British Officer from a group of Huron Indians.
Poe and his family escort Stowe’s character and her daughter to the British Fort where her father is based. Following a seige and heavy artillary bombardment by the French, the Fort is eventually surrendered by the British who are allowed to leave the Fort and head back to Albany in peace.
They are ambushed on the way by those pesky Huron Indians again and Poe, Stowe’s character and the rest of his family go on the run, which eventually leads to one of the great climaxes in movie history.
Nathaniel Poe – kicking the shit out of adversity since 1755
So the character of Poe gets caught up in some serious adversity in the movie. And like I always say – men of Iron Qualities face adversity head-on and kick the shit out of it. Poe is no different.
From the very first scene of the film, the Iron Qualities of Poe and his adopted father and brother assault our eyes and ears. We find them on the hunt in the woods where they snag themselves a pretty impressive looking stag. Not for game – but for food. Out of necessity.
Poe and his boys are able to comfortably live off the land – demonstrating some top notch tracking and hunting skills. In the modern world of convenience where we have GPS and supermarkets, these skills are less and less in demand. But men of Iron Qualities seek to be self-sufficient and I’ll tell you what – if there was ever a Zombie Apocalypse, I would absolutely want Nathaniel Poe at my side.
Poe and Bo vs the Zombies…the dream team. It’s like when Hulk Hogan teamed with the Ultimate Warrior to fight the Triangle of Terror at Summerslam ’91.
Poe is looking at you, Miss
And as this is Hollywood, there is a love interest. In this case, Madeleine Stowe. Poe sets his eyes on her pretty quickly but doesn’t turn into a pathetic swooning mess in the process. He maintains focus on what needs to be done and a honey will always fail the test when it come to breaking this resolve.
When he does focus his attention on her however, he does it directly and with a single-minded purpose. After escorting Stowe’s character and her sister back to the British fort where their father is based, he finds her in the infirmary.
Needless to say, about 5 minutes after this they are smooching behind the bike sheds like a pair of horny teenagers. There’s not a woman alive could resist the Poe stare-down. There was no approach anxiety here…no pickup artist games. Just a self-confidence bordering on cocky. The way it should be.
You say dilemma, I say meh
Remember that adversity I talked about earlier and how Poe leaves it bloody and broken on the floor? Let’s talk a little more about that.
Numerous times in the movie, Poe is faced with difficult dilemmas. And each time, he shows that he is not afraid to take decisive action.
- On the way to the British Fort with Stowe’s character, he stops at the cabin of a friend. They find the cabin burnt out and the charred bodies of his friend and young family laid out everywhere. Poe touches nothing and refuses to bury the bodies, as doing so would have been a sign for the Huron that someone had been there
- While at the British Fort, Poe speaks about the cabin scene and the implications of what he saw (guerilla warfare by the Huron on the Frontier). He facilitates escape for the local militia so they can defend their homes while he himself stays – an act seen as sedition by the British Officers, which he is improsioned for
- While on the run from the Huron, Poe and the group are discovered. Rather than fight superior numbers and probably die, he runs away and leaves Stowe and her sister to be taken prisoners; the plan being a rescue attempt later with better odds of survival
The Last of the Mohicans
In the final scene of the movie, Poe’s adopted father rightly refers to himself as ‘the last of the Mohicans’. Mohicans here stands for something more than the dying Indian tribe. It’s a way of life that is being eroded and ultimately lost. A way of life that is making way for the modern ways of the Europeans who are fighting all around them.
Poe and his father live outside this world. On the Frontier, “beholden to none, not living by another’s leave.”
In a debate with the Chief of another tribe, Poe comments on the many problems that the French and English bring with them in a cutting piece of foresight:
“Would the Huron make his Algonquin brothers foolish with brandy and steal his lands to sell them for gold to the white man? Would the Huron have greed for more land than a man can use?…Would Huron kill tribes with disease? Would the Huron fool Seneca into taking all the animals in the forest for beads & brandy? Those are the ways of Yengeese and Les Francais masters.”
Greed, deceit and desire for trivial things. Traits that Poe as an adopted Mohican rejects. Traits that any man worth his salt knows don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.