In the winter of 1797, illness has forced a band of Cheyenne to migrate to the south, leaving behind those who were too weak or sick to travel. The aging warrior, Windwalker (Trevor Howard), is ill and dying. His family, which consists of his son Smiling Wolf (Nick Ramus), Smiling Wolf’s wife and three children, stay with him after the band leaves. While laying in bed, he tells his grandchildren about his life as a young brave, his marriage to his beautiful Tashina, the blessing of having twins born and the pain of having Tashina die young and one of his children stolen by Crow warriors, the enemy of the Cheyenne.
After Windwalker dies, his family starts their journey to the south, unaware that a Crow war party is stalking them. But the Great Spirit awakens Windwalker for a final mission to complete his life’s journey.
This is a wonderful story and well written and well narrated by Nick Ramus and is told as we would have believed it was told around Indian campfires. This is an American Indian story. There are no white men and no white man influence anywhere in the story. The photography is beautiful. Again, a small regret that the best cinematography equipment wasn’t available for this movie. The shots could have been spectacular. But, some of the shots are still pretty awesome. The scenes of Nick Ramus majestically riding his white war horse are scenes that will always come to my mind whenever I think of American Indian warriors. That horse is beautiful.
It wasn’t hard to fit Trevor Howard into the role of an Indian here. I would have preferred a Native American to play the part, but the distraction of the very English Howard was only minor. If you didn’t know who Trevor Howard was, you wouldn’t have noticed. All the other actors are excellent in their roles and it doesn’t take long to get swept up in the story. The film is fascinating as the story unfolds and has a totally satisfying conclusion, which is more than I can say for most films. The dialog that Windwalker has with the Great Spirit during the film is a nice way to express what is going on in his mind as he tries to figure out what is happening around him and the confusion he is having because he knows he should be dead but isn’t. There are a lot of nice touches in this film.
Needless to say, this is one of my favorite films. Well worth the time to see. I rate this a 9 out of 10 on my modest rating scale.