The Revenant (2015)
As usual, I am late to this critically-acclaimed and Oscar-winning film. I finally got around to seeing it as it was shown on the BBC during the Christmas season, and I recorded it. Many of you have seen it already, and I have read most of the glowing reviews of the film on your blogs over the past couple of years.
For anyone who doesn’t know the story, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Glass, a guide and hunter in the wilderness of northern America, in 1823. He is hired by a fur-trading company to lead a large team of trappers on a mission to collect fur pelts along the river. His job is not only to show them where to go, but also to provide food for them by hunting game, accompanied by his half-Pawnee son, Hawk. In flashback, we see that his Native American wife and other children were killed by soldiers, and he managed to escape with his older son. During the film,, his wife reappears to him in dream sequences, and he also hears her voice.
The story gets off to an action-packed start when the trappers’ camp is attacked by a large band of fierce Arikara natives, who are searching for a missing girl they believe has been captured by white men. In a fierce fight, many of the Americans are killed, and the survivors are forced to flee in their boat, saving some of the valuable pelts. But they soon realise that the boat is vulnerable on the river, and Glass urges the Captain (Domhall Gleeson) to abandon the craft, hide the pelts, and set off on foot to make the long journey back to their fortified base.
One of the trappers, Fitzgerald, (Tom Hardy) is dead set against this plan, and only agrees to accompany the others with great reluctance. He is very unhappy with Glass and the Captain for making this decision, and his resentment grows as the journey proves almost impossible, in increasingly bad weather. Walking ahead of the main group to find the best route, Glass is attacked and savaged by a female grizzly bear. Although he manages to eventually kill the bear, he is left with terrible injuries. The Captain orders the men to carry the injured man on a rudimentary stretcher, but when this proves to be impractical in increasingly difficult terrain, he offers money to any who will stay behind to look after him until he dies, then give him a decent burial. Hawk stays behind with his father, along with a younger man, Bridger. (Will Poulter) Attracted by the cash offered, Fitzgerald also agrees to remain, and promises the Captain that Glass will get a decent burial.
However, when the injured man continues to survive against all expectations, Fitzgerald decides to intervene. He tries to suffocate Glass, and when Hawk intervenes, he kills the boy. He then convinces Bridger that there are fierce natives about to find them, and they bury Glass alive in a shallow grave, leaving him behind as they make their way back to the fort. But this film is not called ‘The Revenant’ for nothing. Glass survives, driven on by his obsession for revenge. And the rest of the film charts his journey back, to seek that revenge.
So, what did I make of this film? My lack of admiration for DiCaprio is legendary on this blog. I don’t rate him in the way that most people do. Most of the time, I don’t rate him above mediocre. But I have had that discussion many times. He is actually well-suited for the role of Glass. It requires little acting, and he has few lines. He is required to look hard, grizzled, confident, and tough. He does all that well, spending most of the film in make-up designed to show his numerous injuries. Tom Hardy makes for a very satisfying villain indeed, and there were times when I found myself rooting for him, as well as for the grizzly bear. 🙂 And I cannot see for the life of me why DiCaprio received the best actor Oscar. Unless it was for endurance on location filming.
The story stretches credibility, with Glass’s ability to survive a series of injuries and accidents that would undoubtedly kill any human immediately. As well as the grizzly bear attack, he falls off a huge cliff while riding a horse, still alive after a fall that looked to be in excess of one hundred feet. He survives extreme cold, and manages to cover large distances whilst crawling on the ground with a damaged ankle. Despite being swept over waterfalls, then carried for some distance on fast-flowing water, he still succeeds in managing to light a fire, drying out his soaking wet clothes, and finding just enough to eat. He is stabbed, half frozen solid by the elements, and overcomes infected wounds with the help of a passing Pawnee warrior who takes pity on him. It was a bit much, to be honest, and I found myself chuckling at times.
But Hardy was good, the sets convincing, the rest of the cast solid, and the period feel completely convincing.
And it had two huge stars who didn’t feature in the cast list. Location, and Cinematography. Amazing scenery, lovingly photographed with consummate skill.
Even on the TV in my living room, this film looked simply wonderful to behold. Breathtakingly beautiful at times, right from the start.
Watch it, if only for that.
It made me regret not seeing it at the cinema. It must have been enthralling, on a big screen.
Here’s a trailer.