Grey Owl 1999

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Sir Richard Attenborough’s deeply personal film about the true story of Grey Owl was barely released worldwide, and not at all theatrically in the US; the casting of Pierce Brosnan as a Native American seems to grated on modern sensibilities. The point of the film was that Grey Owl was not a Native American, but a British man from Hastings called Archie Belaney who successfully passed himself off to the media as an environmental spokesman. A young Attenborough was amongst those who gathered to hear Grey Owl speak, and his intelligent, stately film details how Belaney was converted to environmental causes, and how his identity crisis came to public attention. Brosnan is better here than he is as Bond, and there’s a genuine warmth in his scenes with Annie Galipeau as his wife Pony. Grey Owl doesn’t rank alongside Attenborough’s best, but it’s a strong and relevant film that doesn’t deserve to be dropped into the dustbin of cinema history.

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