Legends of The Fall - Plot

Plot

Sick of the betrayals the United States government has perpetrated on the Native Americans, Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) retires to a remote part of Montana with One Stab, a Cree friend, where they build a ranch. Accompanying them are hired hand Decker; Decker's Cree wife, Pet; and their daughter, Isabel Two. Ludlow's wife, Isabel, does not adapt to the harsh winters and moves to the East Coast. Ludlow has three sons: Alfred, the eldest, is responsible and cautious; Tristan is wild and well-versed in American Indian traditions; Samuel, the youngest, is educated but naive and constantly watched over by his brothers.

At age 12, Tristan touches a sleeping grizzly bear. The bear awakens and slashes at Tristan, injuring him, but he stabs at the bear's paw and cuts off a claw.

As the boys grow up, Samuel returns from Harvard with his fiancée, Susannah Fincannon. She finds Tristan captivating, but loves Samuel. Before they can marry, Samuel tells his family that he is leaving for Calgary to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and aid Britain in the fight against Germany. Much to their father's displeasure, Alfred and Tristan also depart.

During World War I, the brothers find themselves in the 10th Battalion, CEF. Alfred, commissioned as an officer, leads a charge into no man's land. Tristan abandons his unit to be at Samuel's side. The attack is repulsed with heavy casualties, and Alfred is wounded. While visiting Alfred in the field hospital, Tristan learns that Samuel has volunteered for a dangerous reconnaissance mission. He rushes off to protect his brother but arrives too late to save him from being killed. Devastated, Tristan holds Samuel until he dies, then cuts out Samuel's heart, which he sends home to be buried on his father's ranch. Seething with hatred, Tristan single-handedly raids behind German lines, killing two gunners. To the horror of his fellow soldiers, he returns to camp with the scalps of German soldiers hanging around his neck. He is discharged from army service but does not go home. Alfred returns to Montana and proposes marriage to Susannah, but she declines.

Tristan returns home, where Susannah finds him weeping over Samuel's grave. Susannah tries to comfort him, and they become lovers. A jealous Alfred confronts Tristan and later leaves to make his name in Helena. Tristan's relationship with Susannah is doomed by his guilt and pain for failing to protect Samuel, as well as feeling responsible for driving Alfred away. These demons force him to go travelling for several years. At the ranch, Susannah waits for him but eventually receives a letter: "All we had is dead. As I am dead. Marry another." Alfred finds her weeping on the porch and tries to comfort her. Colonel Ludlow finds them together, leading to an argument and falling out between the Colonel and Alfred. Colonel Ludlow later suffers a stroke. He does not speak for years and the ranch deteriorates. In time Susannah agrees to marry Alfred, now a congressman. Alfred's business and politics cause him to get involved with the O'Banion brothers, bootleggers and gangsters.

Tristan returns during Prohibition, bringing life back to the ranch and his father. He accepts Susannah's marriage to his brother and later falls in love with and marries Isabel Two. They have two children, the elder being a boy named Samuel in honor of his late brother. Life seems to become normal again for Tristan as he finds true happiness in his young family. Tristan becomes involved in small-scale smuggling of bootleg liquor, finding himself at odds with the O'Banion brothers. Tristan's wife is accidentally killed by a police officer working for the O'Banions, and in a fit of agonized grief Tristan beats the officer nearly to death and has to serve thirty days in jail. Susannah visits, but Tristan refuses her advances and insists she "go home to Alfred". After his release, Tristan and Decker kill those responsible for Isabel Two's death, including one of the O'Banion brothers.

Susannah commits suicide after realizing she cannot live without Tristan. When the remaining O'Banion brother comes for Tristan, he and the corrupt sheriff are killed by Colonel Ludlow and Alfred as Tristan attempts to protect his father. Alfred reconciles with his father and brother. Tristan, knowing he will be blamed for the men's disappearance, leaves for the mountain country after asking Alfred to take care of his children. Over time, everyone in Tristan's life dies before him. As an old man, Tristan enters a clearing to investigate an animal carcass and is set upon by a grizzly bear. He draws his knife and fights it. As they struggle, the image freeze-frames as One Stab narrates: "It was a good death".

Read more about this topic:  Legends Of The Fall

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