directed by Michael Apted
(Sony, 1992)

On the reservation, FBI means a whole different thing than it does in the outside world. Full Blood Indian, just for one. Thunderheart was released in 1992 and based on several true life incidents on reservations.

FBI Agent Ray Levoi (Val Kilmer) was called in to the Oglala Sioux Reservation on special assignment because he's part Sioux Indian himself and the Bureau figured he'd fit in. No further from the truth, Ray quickly learns there's a big difference between a city Indian and a rez one -- and the rez is definitely a whole different world.

The issue is civil war on the Sioux Reservation. A fight's been brewing the last 100 years over traditional Indians versus U.S. government-supported Indians. When Levoi first arrives, he believes the troublemakers are the traditionals who are deemed rebels by his bosses at the FBI, but as he delves deeper into Sioux culture and his own past, he begins to realize the issues are far deeper than he ever imagined.

Along the way, Ray teams up with rez cop, Walter Crow Horse (Graham Greene) and Grandpa Sam Reaches (Ted Thin Elk) to learn more about his past and his culture. He experiences visions from a past he's long buried and, in some cases, didn't even realize he had access to. He learns how different life is when you've been educated in public schools versus being sent to an Indian school where you are punished for speaking your own tongue or celebrating your native culture.

The performances on Thunderheart are excellent. The story really keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end. This is one of the best Val Kilmer movies I've ever seen, and Graham Greene is always stellar.

Thunderheart is a film I keep going back to. I've rented this movie several times to show to friends and I'm getting a Blu-ray version for myself. It's well worth watching every few years.

review by
Becky Kyle

9 August 2008

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