Experience one of the most definitive and triumphant chapters in American history by journeying Into the West with this powerful 4-disc DVD set. Presented by TNT in association with DreamWorks Television and executive produced by Steven Spielberg, this 12-TV-hour event contains all 6 timeless episodes of the action-packed mini-series and boasts an entire disc of exclusive bonus features. Chronicling the struggles, heartache and conquests of two inspiring families, Into the West captures the hopes and perseverance of both the explorers who risked everything to fulfill their dreams and the land's indigenous people forced to watch their way of life disappear. Featuring an ensemble cast of Hollywood's brightest stars, including Beau Bridges, Graham Greene, Matthew Modine and Keri Russell, Into the West is an American Dream saga that Entertainment Weekly calls "epic in scope and cast."
Spanning 65 years and several generations, Into the West
succeeds as an ambitious compendium of authentic American history. Originally broadcast in the summer of 2005 as a six-part miniseries on TNT, it's the kind of well-intentioned epic that can't possibly satisfy everyone, and some critics complained that it covers too much territory, with characters functioning more as archetypes than full-blooded human beings. Criticisms aside, Into the West
admirably achieves the goal of executive producer Steven Spielberg, who envisioned this expansive project as an accurate and corrective history lesson with long-term educational value. Placing important emphasis on the Native American perspective, it follows the Lakota Indians as they are gradually overwhelmed by the white man's irrevocable westward expansion. As conceived by playwright/screenwriter William Mastrosimone, the drama uses two primary symbols--the wagon wheel and the Lakota medicine wheel--to join the Lakota story with that of the Wheelers, a Virginia family of wheelwrights who witness many of the 19th century's pivotal historical milestones. From the pioneering explorations of mountain men in 1825 to the tragic massacre of downtrodden Lakota at Wounded Knee in 1891, these parallel storylines encompass migrating wagon trains, the California Gold Rush, construction of the transcontinental railroad, the violence of Quantrill's Raiders, and much, much more.
Through it all, Into the West preserves Lakota customs and language (accompanied by English subtitles) with unprecedented authenticity. In showing how Native cultures were systematically oppressed by the white man's westward capitalism, this tragic tale is inevitably heartbreaking, although it ends on a hopeful note of cultural preservation. Some violent content from the original TNT broadcast has been edited for this DVD release to better accommodate classroom viewing, but Into the West still qualifies as essential viewing for anyone seeking an inclusive dramatization of truthful American history, as opposed to the wildly inaccurate and woefully biased accounts that dominated for decades. With different directors for all six parts, the miniseries is remarkably consistent in tone and vision, its outstanding production values matched by the excellence of a prestigious and well-chosen cast including Irene Bedard (who gives the standout performance in a half-white/half-Lakota role spanning decades), Keri Russell, Skeet Ulrich, Balthazar Getty, Matthew Modine, Graham Greene, Wes Studi, Beau Bridges, Sean Astin, Lance Henriksen, Rachael Leigh Cook, Keith Carradine, and others too numerous to mention. They all contribute to a heartfelt tapestry of bicultural history, both tragic and inspiring, and impressive enough to make its flaws easily forgiven.
A standard making-of documentary covers all aspects of the production of Into the West, with a brief introductory comment by Steven Spielberg. The "Communication Gap" featurette explores the challenge of translating dialogue into authentically spoken Lakota language. Also included is a survey (with interview clips) of the large cast; the original TNT promo trailer; and a music video of the miniseries-inspired song "World on Fire," combining Into the West footage with a performance by Sarah McLachlan and Robbie Robertson. --Jeff Shannon