The Revenant asks any man of any stage in life: when do you become a man? Do you keep yourself rooted on strong foundation? Where is God in your path to revenge? Or do you leave revenge to the creator? These are not easy questions to consider, but this now legendary motion picture by two-time Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárritu throws all viewers directly under the sun of Hugh Glass’s journey toward survival.
Hugh Glass is a fur trader in northern Montana during the dead-cold of the 1820s. Along with his Native American son and several other men, they are the ones responsible for negotiating deals with the other race to guarantee each of their sustainability in the winter months. Glass knows that he is setting himself up for chaos by bringing his Native-born son to the expedition, but as a widower, he cannot let his boy out of his careful supervision.
Yet all that Glass was familiar with goes south: he gets mauled nearly to death by a mother bear, is left for dead by his own men, and their boss, John Fitzgerald, murders Glass’s son. Now the attack victim is left to single-handedly crawl out of his grave, fighting for survival in the unkind enemy that is the forest he once mastered.
The Revenant is one of those pictures that relies heavily on its mise-en-scène to drive the story, even more so than the development of its characters. That is, growth and development are all there in each of the men present in Glass’s journey, but they’re not exactly the rich type of characters you get to know like close friends. It’s sad especially considering it prevents me from feeling empathy for the loss of his son.
However, the flaws in characterization is greatly made up for with the unforgettable performances of its two leads: Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road) as the calm easy to hate John Fitzgerald, and Leonardo DiCaprio (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Wolf of Wall Street) as the leading role.
DiCaprio has finally survived bear assaults, raw bison liver, live fish, icy streams, cliff tumbles, intense throat agony, and internet memes in order to win his long overdue Academy Award. Let me tell you: the win was well and beyond deserved. Playing a role of few words besides grunts and teeth-gritting, DiCaprio proves the true power of silence in storytelling.
That said, you have been warned: this feature is rated-R for a reason. Mother Nature is cruel to her inhabitants, and if constant strangling, heads getting impaled by arrows, a throat being torn apart, fingers getting chopped off, and ears getting bitten off is not your ideal viewing experience, stop reading and skip ahead to the autism lesson: this movie’s not for you. But if you are willing to watch without needing someone to cover your eyes, then every second of every attack, especially the phenomenally depicted bear assault, pain pins you right in the heart.
It sounds like a fast paced thriller, and under another director, this easily could have been one with the usual quick-cuts and close-ups on the action. But no, Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, Birdman) progresses the story along slowly, making every cloud, tree, and pebble carry its own spiritual significance to the story. The runtime totals over two-and-a-half hours, but not a second is wasted as it lingers on the beautiful but unholy coldness of what it means to survive.
Iñárritu is a master of throwing the audience into the scene as if they were direct spectators from a supernatural point of view. With the abnormally long takes, frequent absence of dialogue, and water splashing onto the lens, we become part of the very character of nature.
The creation of nature as a living warzone is indeed tarnishing to the joys of humanity, in fact even a little too much so. The story wraps itself up neatly as needed, but without a hint of optimism or a direct path that we as humans ought to follow. The best stories are not told from one perspective of life, but in exploring multiple paths to a certain answer to our world’s problems. I hate to admit that The Revenant does not do that in the end; it gives off a powerful message about revenge, but with no brighter side to the message: so now we know that a situation is bad, but what’s the silver lining? I wish the finest Hollywood movies didn’t have to be so depressing most of the time.
But that’s really a minor complaint if anything. The Revenant deserves to be called a new modern-day classic to cinema that belongs among Lawrence of Arabia and Gone With The Wind as one of the defining big-screen cinematic experiences that define why we go to the movies.
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Lifeforfilms. Check out Leonardo DiCaprio & Tom Hardy on The Revenant posters. Digital image. Live For Films. WordPress. Web. <http://www.liveforfilms.com/2015/11/02/check-out-leonardo-dicaprio-tom-hardy-on-the-revenant-posters/>.
The Revenant. 20th Century Fox. Web. <http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/therevenant>.