An American Legend

directed by Walter Hill
(Columbia Tristar, 1993)

Geronimo: An American Legend is one of those movies that "almost" revealed the entire hidden truth about treatment of Native Americans by the Army. It is an exceptional movie with great casting, beautiful scenery and a nice music score.

This is the story of how Geronimo (Wes Studi) and his small band of followers refused to give up their freedom and live quietly on the reservation. They tried it and it did not work, so they escaped. The government hunted them mercilessly, even when they had moved into Mexico, and funneled thousands and thousands of dollars into the effort to apprehend these "rogue" warriors.

The few soldiers that felt a sense of justice, honor and fair play toward the Indians were caught in the middle. Chief of scouts Al Sieber (Robert Duvall) is amazed by the actions of his commander, 1st Lt. Charles B. Gatewood (Jason Patric) and exclaims: "You don't love who you are fighting for and you don't hate who you're fighting against." (This quote has been utilized extensively in books about Native Americans and it is worded differently in these books. I believe this quote has suffered modernization, although the meaning remains the same.)

Patric does an outstanding job as Gatewood, according to the written accounts in actual documents from the era. His facial expressions and body language are superb in conveying his confusion and often bewilderment at the government's orders. One surprising fact is that he did his own horse stunts. There is a scene where a lone warrior is challenging him. When they charge each other, he reins his horse to the ground, kicking out of the saddle in the knick of time, and assumes a firing position from behind the horse. It is a spectacular feat for an accomplished horseman and he is to be praised for executing it with such precision.

Studi takes Geronimo to the most remarkable level. He portrays the trilingual warrior in a strong, yet fair way. Studi should have gone on to bigger and better Native American-themed movies.

Steve Reevis portrayed Chato exceptionally well. This movie does remind us of the fate suffered by Chato after Geronimo eventually surrendered. It needs to be refreshed in our memories on a regular basis, so that we never forget our government's sense of honor and justice in these Indian matters!

This is a solid movie with a wonderfully talented cast. Gene Hackman and Matt Damon add tremendously to its appeal to viewers. It is great entertainment and does come closer than most movies to reflecting the truth of the Apache eradication. The truth is still out there and maybe someday we will see it. Until then, watch this movie and get inspired to search for the truth.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 12 April 2003

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