Anonymous Content/Appian Way/New Regency Pictures/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Regency Enterprises/20th Century Fox
Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu
Produced by Arnon Milchan/Steve Golin/Mary Parent/James W. Skotchdopole/Keith Redmon
Screenplay by Mark L. Smith
Based on “The Revenant” by Michael Punke
See, THE REVENANT should have hit theaters during the spring or summer. Oh, I know it’s out now because it had to qualify for The Academy Awards. And believe you me, from the first shot to the last it’s got Oscar Bait stamped all over it. But here’s my point: its winter here in Brooklyn and to go through a cold environment to see a movie that for two hours and thirty-six minutes immerses me in a frigid environment is kinda like adding insult to injury.
And when I say immerse, that is exactly what I mean. Director Alejandro Inarritu insisted on filming in remote locations. Reportedly crew members quit due to the difficulty of shooting on the locations and I can believe that. The cast looks as if they’re absolutely freezing throughout the whole movie. It couldn’t have been an easy movie to make. It isn’t an easy one to sit through.
Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) are scouts for a party of trappers hunting for pelts in the Louisiana Purchase territory of 1823. Saying that it’s a savage, barbarous wilderness barely does justice to how untamed this land is. But the hunters quickly find out as Arikara Indians attack them and most of them are wiped out. Glass, Hawk and about ten others manage to escape on a boat which Glass insists they have to abandon as soon as possible because the Arikara know the river and they will easily flank them and have an ambush waiting.
This plan doesn’t sit well with John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who already doesn’t trust Hugh’s son because he’s half Pawnee. But the commander of the party, Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) agrees to Hugh’s plan which saves them from the Indians. But it doesn’t save Hugh from being attacked and hideously mauled by a bear while separated from the party. Hugh manages to kill the bear but he’s left barely alive himself. Although Henry and the others do their best to stitch him up and bring him along, the consensus is that Hugh is only slowing them down and will die soon anyway. Hawk and another member of the party, Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) say they will stay with Hugh and when he dies, give him a proper burial. Once he’s promised a fat financial bonus, Fitzgerald also offers to stay behind.
As soon as the hunting party is out of sight and Bridger goes to the river for water, Fitzgerald tries to kill Hugh. Hawk tries to stop him and is killed. Fitzgerald hides the body and tells Bridger that they have to leave as he has seen Indians in the vicinity, the lying bastard. Up until then, Hugh Glass had pretty much been resigned to dying but now Fitzgerald has given him a reason to live and horribly, painfully, Hugh Glass sets out to find Fitzgerald and get revenge.
THE REVENANT from start to finish has a wild, brutal kind of beauty. Even the bear attack on Hugh Glass is both horrifying and yet somehow artistic at the same time. Hugh’s odyssey of vengeance takes place across a spectacular landscape that is stark and forbidding but also gorgeously stunning. Few movies have ever made such a barren wasteland look this enthrallingly fascinating. THE REVENANT is downright exquisite to look at. You’ll be reminded of the films of Terence Malick at times, I’m sure
Far as I’m concerned, every one of the actors in THE REVENANT oughta get a Oscar just for surviving this movie. Everybody looks cold, dirty and miserable in every single scene. If realism is what Inarritu wanted from his actors then realism is what he got. It makes for a pretty grim movie watching experience. Hugh Glass has to first drag himself for miles until he gets the strength to crawl for even more miles and then at last walk. All the while surviving blizzards, hostile Indians (there’s a subplot about an Arikara chief looking for his kidnapped daughter and in his rage slaughters any white man he comes across) French trappers that kill just because they’ve got nothing else to do as well as the land itself which in its own way is an enemy trying to kill Hugh. An enemy more pitiless than any human could ever be.
Leonardo DiCaprio shows again why he’s one of our best actors working today. This truly is a different role for him and there’s long stretches of the movie where there’s no dialog and he communicates very well with his body and face what Hugh Glass is thinking and feeling. But its Tom Hardy that is the movie’s MVP. In fact, I felt I got to know John Fitzgerald better than I did Hugh Glass as Fitzgerald/Hardy gets the lion’s share of dialog and he can articulate himself and his motivations in a way the other characters never do.
So should you see THE REVENANT? Well, it’s no “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” that’s for fargin’ sure. That’s not to say that its entertainment value is any less. But it’s a movie that you have to put yourself in a certain mindset to see as it absolutely is not chewing gum for the brain crafted simply for spectacle and histrionic melodrama. It’s an uncompromising, adult story of survival and revenge that isn’t afraid to be ferociously, even mercilessly brutal and yet achieves a fascinating level of breathtaking beauty in the telling of its story. Recommended.