Sad, stately and ideologically au courant, Geronimo relates the final stages of the US government’s subjugation of the West’s native population in absorbing, detailed fashion. Neatly turning long-standing genre conventions upside down while working squarely within them, director Walter Hill has fashioned a physically impressive, well-acted picture whose slightly stodgy literary quality holds it back from an even greater impact.
This large-scale feature [from a screen story by John Milius] intriguingly concentrates on 1885-86, when the US Army devoted 5,000 men, or one-quarter of its entire troop strength, to the effort to stamp out Indian resistance once and for all.
Pic is framed by the words of a secondary character, Lt Britton Davis (Matt Damon), a freshly scrubbed lad straight from West Point who arrives in Arizona territory just in time for the Geronimo push. Closer to the center of matters is Lt Charles Gatewood (Jason Patric), a young Virginian who takes Geronimo into custody and peacefully escorts him to Brig. Gen. Crook (Gene Hackman), a veteran Indian fighter.
Geronimo and some followers escape and head for Mexico. The Army again takes up its pursuit with the aide of grizzled scout Al Sieber (Robert Duvall). Crook is replaced by Brig. Gen. Miles, a martinet who orders Gatewood to bring Geronimo in once and for all.
Wes Studi is a rugged, commanding, admirably defiant Geronimo. Pic’s tone is kept in a dour straitjacket that Hackman and Duvall manage somewhat to escape with their irony and seasoned humanity. Rich and majestic production values demand big-screen viewing.
1993: Nomination: Best Sound