The Revenant is the true story of American frontiersman, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his half caste son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) who have been employed by the Americans to guide them and navigate the dangerous and savage landscape and its inhabitants as they collect pelts to sell. After a surprise attack is launched on the trappers outpost, Hugh Glass and a handful of other men manage to escape the merciless skirmish that was launched by local native Arikara Indians who are searching for their leader's daughter who was stolen by two 'white men' and they aren't taking any prisoners in their search either.
Being the lead hunter and most experienced survivalist, Hugh Glass decides that the survivors are to abandon their makeshift boat, which puts him at odds with John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who thinks they should've stayed on the boat. As Hugh Glass is out scouting their track back to their main camp, he comes across an overly protective and aggressive grizzly bear. Hugh Glass finds himself in a shockingly brutal fight for his life against a dominate grizzly that seems determined to kill Hugh Glass. Fortunately though, Hugh Glass ain't made outta glass! He is made out of flesh and bones though, and the grizzly takes its pound of flesh before Hugh Glass finally manages to kill the grizzly in one of the most intense and painful bear attacks I've ever seen. Nature at its most... natural.
That grizzly made an absolute mess out of Hugh Glass though, and Leonardo sold that sharp, intense and relentless pain of the bear attack with an astonishing aplomb. Leaving him beaten, broken, sliced and punctured all over his body, Hugh Glass is clinging to life with every breath he takes. However Fitzgerald is tired of Glass slowing them down for the Indians to kill, so he buries Glass and kills his son, Hawk, all in front of Glass no less. Figuring Glass as a dead man, Fitzgerald leaves him be and goes off to collect his money, little does he know that Hugh Glass has literally hauled himself out of his grave, and begins the slow and tortorous process of healing his body in the most in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. The healing process isn't quick either or easy either and it probably takes more emotional strength to overcome than it does physical strength.
What can I say about the beauty of this movie that hasn't already been said? It's true, all of it! The Revenant is a stunningly beautiful movie, it really is. The landscapes are perfect, and I noticed that the score would often accentuate a certain mood or feeling of the wilderness, sometimes it felt majestic and awe-inspiring, yet other times it felt haunting and elegiac. The cold indifference of mother nature and mans perseverance in the face of it, the indomitable will to survive, or the intransigent will to get revenge, either way works. The natural lighting, the cinematography, the acting, the taut script, the exacting editing, the precise direction, this movie really is a master class of film-making at its finest.
Hugh Glass is the role that establishes Leonardo DiCaprio as the pre-eminent actor of his generation in my eyes. If Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't win an Oscar for this performance then fuck the Oscars. Leonardo DiCaprio was absolutely committed, rarely have I seen a braver and more arduous performance than I have here. I don't want to overlook Tom Hardy either! Tom more than held his own in all the scenes he had as the treacherous Fitzgerald as well. Both men gave brilliant performances, there's no denying it, but this is Leonardo DiCaprio's movie all the way.
The violence is... violent. I don't want to say its gratuitous, because it's not. People are always assuming that a movie is rated R because something was gratuitous, and it's usually the violence. The violence was merely as violence is, it's disturbing, it's horrific and it's gut-wrenching. Realistic in other words. Despite my wonder at The Revenant, the pacing dropped just a little bit in a couple of places, and I think there was some religious and social themes that could have been explored more than they were. There was some religious and spiritual/mystical angles that were broached, but they were never really explained beyond vague allusions.
Tom Hardy gave a magnificent soliloquy when he spoke about his atheistic father who found god in a fat and juicy squirrel one day, and then had a good laugh when his father killed 'god'. That reminded me of Nietzsche's famous quote "God is dead, and we have killed him!". I got the impression that the Indians were being set up as gods of some sort, not literally gods, just spiritually above us somehow, more in touch with the mysticism of nature. It's implied that Hugh Glass had some sort of spiritual or mystical connection with his lover in the dreamworld too, and he also met his son in a decrepit Catholic church. Meanwhile Fitzgerald was a religious man, to some degree, and he came across the mystical 'gods' of the land again. I'm not sure exactly what Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was trying to say exactly, if anything at all on a spiritual level, maybe he was only speaking on an ontological level regarding humans. Either way, I loved The Revenant. It's the most satisfying movie going experience I've had in quite some time.
Written by - The Sentry - 05/02/2016