"Legends of the Fall", by director Edward Zwick, is every bit as sweeping and rousing as his civil war creation "Glory". Love, courage, jealousy, and hope all play a part in the film about three brothers who lives are changed by both World War I and a woman whom they all come to love. Set in the expanse of the Montana countryside, the film is at once intimate and bigger-than-life.
Col. William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) decides to raise his three sons alone when his wife Isabel chooses to return to life in the city. His eldest son Alfred (Aidan Quinn), is a bit on the conventional side. Samuel (Henry Thomas), the youngest son, is the darling of the family. Falling in the middle is the adventurous and enigmatic Tristan (Brad Pitt). One day Samuel returns home with a beautiful fiance in tow. Susannah (Julia Ormond) possesses an indomitable spirit and immediately captivates her two future brothers-in-law.
Before Samuel's marriage is to take place, he gets it into his head that he has no greater cause than to fight for the allies in the first world war. Col. Ludlow strongly advises him against it but in the end all three brothers leave to join the military. Alfred and Tristan look out for their younger brother, but they are unable to prevent his demise.
Alfred returns from war first and immediately falls deeply in love with Susannah. She, however, has her sights on the wilder brother. When Tristan returns, they immediately strike up a passionate relationship. This continues for a while and then Tristan heads off one day planting serious doubts that he will ever return. In his absence, Alfred, now a congressman, makes a play for Susannah. Also around this time, Col. Ludlow suffers a stroke and his hair turns white overnight.
"Legends of the Fall" sometimes plays as a soap opera, but never does it give into melodrama. Finely acted, especially by Hopkins, Pitt and Ormond, the film is a delight for those seeking a serious, adult drama. Because it is technically a 1994 release, look for some well-deserved nods when the Academy Award nominations are announced this February.