Gloria B. (glowbird) from SPOKANE, WA Reviewed on 7/31/2023...
This is a 'fictionalized' account of what happened at Pine Ridge in a stand off between the American Indian Movement and the FBI. If you're familiar with the story, you know that Fred Ward is based on the former chairman Dick Wilson, who helped the US Government to draw attention away from the fact that he was selling off 1/8 of the Pine Ridge Reservation for uranium mining, without the people knowing. Jimmy Looks Twice is vaguely based on Leonard Peltier (though I don't think anyone has claimed Leonard could shapeshift), and Maggie Eagle Bear is an excellent description of Anna Mae Aquash, a school teacher, who was murdered--the FBI tried to have her illegally buried under an assumed name, then just as Jane Doe, and because she had distinctive jewelry on her hands that couldn't be removed due to post-mortem swelling, they cut off her hands, and sent them off allegedly for 'fingerprinting', and what do you know? They got lost. The book by Peter Mathiessen, "In the Spirit Of Crazy Horse" was kept from publishing for 8 years by the government who did not want the story out. The character of Ray Levoi, supposidly part Native American, maybe is a step up on the white savior syndrome of Hollywood, but only barely. Still this is a decent film with the addition of John Trudell and Dennis Banks both of AIM, and Native actors including Graham Greene, Sheila Tousey, and Ted Thin Elk as Grandpa Sam Reaches.
0 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
K. K. (GAMER) Reviewed on 11/20/2020...
I forgot how great this was with alot of Native American Indian heritage. Val Kilmer, Graham Greene II, and others shine in this with an outstanding plotline!
4 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
Don K. from BEAVERTON, OR Reviewed on 1/28/2011...
This was from back when Val Kilmer could still act. I've seen it three times, and enjoyed it each and every time. 5 stars.
2 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
The human spirit is alive and strong...
Kyle Tolle | Phoenix, Arizona USA | 03/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If I remember correctly, this movie was not rated well when it was first released in theatres. I couldn't understand why since it was well made, had a decent cast and had a thought provoking plot based on true events.The cinematography is very attactive in showing the badlands of South Dakota and featuring looks into the Indian reservations. Also, the music was well done and offered a nice perspective of Native American sounds and environments.This movie also sends a message about a darker time in America's past when the govenrment perpetrated some devious acts against the Native Americans. Maybe it was high time that these events came out into the open so that more people would know what happened and know that what the U.S. government did was very wrong. Val Kilmer proved to be well suited for the "by the book" FBI agent that came of age and got in touch with his Indian heritage and learned to do the right thing. Sam Shepard, a great actor as always, played the role very well of the "dark horse" FBI agent with skeletons in his closet and a secret agenda on the Sioux reservation. Graham Greene could not have done any better as the reservation police officer. Showing his pride and dignity as an Native American along with the humorous backlashings at Val Kilmer made for pleasant interactions throughout the movie. A movie worth watching again and again."
A diamond in the rough
Rocco Dormarunno | Brooklyn, NY | 05/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Time over time, Val Kilmer has proven that he is not just a pretty face. He has continually impressed even the most severe critics that he is a formidable actor. THUNDERHEART, to me, is among his best performances. There is some predictability in the plot: Kilmer portrays an FBI agent who is part Native-American. When he is sent to a reservation to investigate a crime, he begins to respect and embrace the heritage he had not previously acknowledged. What is not predictable, however, is how well the script avoids sentiment and focuses on Kilmer's transformation. Loosely based on the actual events surrounding Leonard Peltier's American Indian Movement, and the murders of FBI agents on the Pine Ridge reservation (all of which is the subject of Peter Matthiessen's book "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse"), THUNDERHEART is a powerful examination of the surreal and frightening life on Native American reservations. Brutality is everywhere: whites against Indians, Indians against Indians, etc. Director Michael Apted does a remarkable job of tempering the violence with scenes of beauty and with images of a peace-loving tribe of people. This is a heartbreaking film at times, but there is a sense of justice in the long-run. THUNDEHEART is not a piece of hunk-actor mind candy. This is a powerful (and underrated) film that demands your attention. It is well-worth it."
The Proud and The Conquered
Mr. Cairene | Cairo, Egypt | 05/25/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A low profile but vicious war is being waged on the Oglala Sioux reservation in South Dakota, on one hand there are the "traditionalists" who are adamant on protecting their culture, on the other are the pro-governement natives led by a particulary nasty man called John Milton (Fred Ward). This war results in a murder of Leo Fast Elk, a native who was also a council member. Due to the sensitivity if the case the FBI does the PC thing and sends a one fourth Indian agent named Roy Levoi (Val Kilmer). The first hint that the this won't be another run of the mill thriller is the Roy Levoi character, he isn't your average hero, infact he is no hero at all. When we first see him he is a "by the book" FBI man, and the film more then anything else is the story of how he wrestles with and discovers his true identity. Kilmer's performance is both subtle and superb. Good thrillers keep us guessing for the truth, great thrillers like Peter Weir's WITNESS and Jim Mcbride's THE BIG EASY are more concerned with the atmosphere and cultural quirks of the characters. Thunderheart is very nearly a great thriller, more concerned with the thematic and moral implications of the Indian tribal wars then using Indians for atmosphere. There is a real sense of discovery in watching this film, an attention to detail that gives it the credibilty to survive the rules of the thriller. There is also undercurrent supernatural element (actually spiritual would be more accurate) that is handled with subtlety and grace by the director. Hitchcock said there is no suspense in the boom, only the anticipation of one. As a result most thrillers have to survive their endings. Although on reflection Thunderheart's ending seems improbable, during the film you are carried by its momentum that you don't mind. The title of this review refers to one character's desciption of the native Indians in the U.S. . This is the most fascinating thing for me about the film, the thin line between cultural protection and xenophobia. The violence the almost certainly errupts when different cultures collide. Although the film is clearly on the Sioux's side (and correctly so), the larger subject is fascinating. Micheal Apted's recent films always seem to fall short of their alluring premises, both Nell and Extreme Measure were solid but lacking something. But in Thunderheart he has created a fascinating, beautiful and haunting film."
Haunting, beautifully mystical, hypnotic
LoveHarryPotter | Highland, CA | 08/24/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Run, run for the Stronghold, Thunderheart.' 'The soldiers are coming." This movie is one of my favorites. I really did not care for Val Kilmer when I found out he played a key role in that idiot of a movie Top Gun but since Thunderheart, he has become one of my favorites. You can actually see the change in Val Kilmer's eyes as his character unfolds into the shaman and guardian of Indian beliefs he becomes at the end and what an ending! I saw this movie at four different theaters and every time the audience gasped at a relieved surprise when both men turn to face The Stronghold. The director lifted a story of one man's journey of a mystical discovery of himself, his heritage, a past life and an adoration of Indian land, into a poetic defiance. All the actors, including the dog, weave a clever, funny, sad and powerful tale into one explosive climax. Even James Horner's music hypnotizes the viewer from the very beginning of the movie. It is as if you can shape shift into a another form and float across the Badlands. I see this movie once a month and when I loan it to friends, they return it with a look of wonder in their eyes. I wish there could had been some kind of sequel. If you watch the ending credits, you will see the name of the individual this movie is dedicated to. On another note, the mystical quality of the movie reminds me of The Last Wave and Never Cry Wolf which are both well done. How I wish for a sequel. Michael Apted, are you listening?"
Tractor_Man | Maine | 04/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a go-to movie if you don't know what to watch. I think this is Val Kilmer's best dramatic performance (I also loved him in 'Real Genius'). The movie portrays Kilmer's character initially dismissing but eventually rediscovering, through well-done visions, his heritage amid the murders, corruption and eventual resolution the movie entertainingly provides. My top praise though must go to Graham Greene (Dances w/ Wolves, Northern Exposure, etc) as the wry, witty sheriff who has never had 'a vision'. Whenever Graham's name appears on the opening credits, I know I'm going to be in for a treat. Major kudos also to the cinematographer - the South Dakota badlands scenery and the excellent use of back-lighting is worth the price of admission alone - haunting, stark, but at the same time beckoning and beautiful. Not being a Native American, I cannot comment on the authenticity of life 'on the Rez', but it was moving on many levels nonetheless. A movie worthy of any collector interested in Native American interests."