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September Dawn


This is almost a tale of star-crossed lovers, sort of a Romeo and Juliet of the old west. The difference is that the story is inspired by true events and centers on the mass murder of a wagon train in Utah in 1857, a crime perpetrated by Mormons.

The cast is headed by Jon Voight, who plays Jacob Samuelson: bishop, mayor and militia general of Mountain Meadows, Utah. Samuelson, who was present when Joseph Smith was murdered in Missouri, is wary of the Gentile travelers and sends his son, Jonathan (Trent Ford), to spy on them. Young party member Emily (Tamara Hope) catches his eye, however, and when the elder Samuelson condemns the group to death, Jonathan must choose between his heart and his upbringing.

This film is certain to create a stir with many LDS Idahoans as it alleges early Mormon patriarch Brigham Young (Terrence Stamp) ordered the attack, but to disinterested third-party moviegoers, it serves as a mostly flat story of religious zealots quashing innocents. The character development is weak, which detracts from engaging the audience, while the slightly-less-than-Hollywood production values make it feel more like historical fiction. However, the scenery is gorgeous, Voight displays some decent acting, and it's a rather interesting take on a little-known piece of history, though it's hard to discern which parts would actually be fact.

One thing that might be noteworthy: 28-year-old Ford displays a flash of River Phoenix-esque looks and abilities and may be a young actor to watch for in the near future.