Author: JoAnne Hyde
Date: January 7, 2016

SYNOPSIS: While exploring the uncharted wilderness in the 1800s, legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) sustains injuries from a brutal bear attack. When his hunting team leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back home to his beloved family. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, Glass treks through the wintry terrain to track down John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the former confidant who betrayed and abandoned him.

Strength and endurance are not only characteristics required by The Revenant protagonist Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), but by the audience as well. Director Alejandro G. Inarritu provides 2 hours 36 minutes of stark contrasts: the breath-taking beauty of the primal American western landscape alongside the most repelling brutality imaginable. Alternately spellbinding and excruciating to watch, The Revenant provides a compelling snapshot of a long distant past, as alien to the modern-day audience as science fiction. Based on a true story, the script was largely based on a work of fiction – the 2003 novel by Michael Punke. Inarritu himself states that, “the only actual facts are that Glass was attacked by a grizzly bear, was abandoned, and survived.”

DiCaprio threw himself completely into the role of Glass, a fur trader and scout on an ill-fated 1823 expedition lead by Capt. Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). The actual Glass was a bit of a sketchy character, but DiCaprio’s character is humanized by the addition of a son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) and a deceased Pawnee wife (Grace Dove) seen only in dream sequences.

Tom Hardy skillfully plays John Fitzgerald, a member of the expedition portrayed as a soulless villain who invokes the “Good Lord” in one moment only to turn Him into a blasphemous joke in the next. After the chilling bear attack, he’s one of the volunteers who is to stay with the mortally injured Glass until he passes and then give him a proper burial. Fitzgerald’s motivation is not altruistic. The fur trading expedition has been a failure, so Capt. Henry offers money to anyone who stays. Conscience causes a second man, 19-year-old Jim Bridger (William Poulter), to stay. As Glass continues to linger on the verge of death, Fitzgerald begins to fear for his own life and convinces the reluctant Bridger to abandon Glass and report to Henry that Glass died and they properly buried him.

The word revenant refers to a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead. Glass, who should have died, incredibly survives, and driven by an insatiable desire to exact vengeance and his rage at being abandoned, drags himself across many miles of wilderness to get to the Fort where they have gone. The majority of the 2 ˝ hour running time of the film details the events of Glass’s agonizing journey. One has to admire DiCaprio’s dedication to his craft as he moves from one gruesome scene to another. The bear attack was created through CGI, but it is gut-wrenchingly realistic. You may never want to go near any kind of forest again!

Cinematically, The Revenant is a work of art. Story-wise, it’s about ˝ hour too long. One can only watch Leo drag himself through the snow for so long before the mind begins to wander. That being said, all of the actors turn in adept performances, especially Tom Hardy. Make no mistake: this is a serious film. It’s quite an experience, but don’t mistake it for entertainment.

Apparently there was no room for humor in the Great West. - JoAnne Hyde


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