Val Kilmer, Sam Shepard, Graham Greene (II), Fred Ward, Fred Dalton Thompson Thunder Heart VHS
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Tough but moving, Thunderheart is an unusual story about an arrogant FBI agent (Val Kilmer) who participates in a federal investigation of a murder on an Oglala Sioux reservation. Kilmer's character is part Sioux himself, a detail that leaves him cold as he sets about pushing his way through the community to find facts on the case. In time, however, he begins to feel an ethnic tug and grows increasingly sympathetic to the locals and hostile toward his fellow G-men, much to the dismay of his agency mentor (Sam Shepard). The script is based on real events that occurred on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975 in South Dakota (involving an armed standoff between Indian activists and the FBI, an event that prompted Thunderheart director Michael Apted to make a companion documentary, Incident at Oglala). The conclusion of Thunderheart feels like politically charged whimsy, but the real strength of the film is Kilmer's outstanding performance as a man in transformation. Apted's clear-eyed depiction of the Sioux's spiritual and cultural continuity with the past has none of the cloying romanticism of other films about Indians. Produced by Robert De Niro. --Tom Keogh
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