Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter and Forrest Goodluck
156 min. R
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you combined a Rambo movie, The Gladiator, set it in the 1820’s , cast Leonardo DiCaptrio as the star and get the guy who made Birdman to direct? Like every other person on earth, your answer is “No, but I want that!” The Revenant delivers in so many ways. Grisly excitement (unintentional bear pun), rich forest scenery, flawless acting and powerful emotions are all here.
I read a few reviews going into this movie, and they led me to believe this experience would be a difficult and unrelenting one. I am here to confirm that, this is the most miserable and difficult journey you will ever love to take. As odd as that may sound, this two and a half hour movie puts Leonardo DiCaprio through genuine torture, but by the end of it you are truly happy to have gone with him.
The movie is set deep in the snowy Montana woods where a camp of fur-trappers is set up and processing hides. I have no idea how all that works. Suddenly their camp is attacked by a group of Indians. This group is looking for the chief’s daughter Powaqa and thinks this group might have taken her. A bloody fight between rifles and arrows ensues and the very few remaining fur-trappers get to their boat and float down river. Led by their tracker Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his half-Indian son Hawk (Forest Goodluck), they come ashore and decide to leave their remaining furs hidden and make their way back to base in South Dakota. Once they can gather an army they will come back in force to collect the furs and make their money. Group leader Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) agrees but alpha-male and Villian with a capital-V John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) cannot stand the idea of leaving the furs behind for any reason and argues for his own plans the entire time.
They set up a new camp and prepare for the long walk home. Glass wanders off in search of food and comes across a bear and her cubs. The bear does exactly what you would expect and mauls Glass to the very limits of his life. He is found by the rest of his party and brought back. Fitzgerald immediately begins his campaign to put Glass out of his misery for the good of him and the group.
The already small group splits, half leaving for the base and half staying behind to sustain Glass’ life as long as possible until their return, fully expecting that he will die shortly anyway. Fitzgerald decides to mercy-kill Glass and is caught by his son Hawk, who screams for help and is stabbed by Fitzgerald. Here Leonardo does some of the best close-mouth scream-spitting you’ve ever seen, as he watches Hawk die.
Fitzgerald, throws Glass in a barely dug grave, tosses some handfuls of dirt on him, and takes off for home base along with naive Jim Bridger (Will Poulter).
The bulk of the movie (and the best of it) begins here as we see Hugh Glass cling to life and try to get back to base and find Fitzgerald and get his revenge for the murder of his son. We are then treated to an hour and a half of Leonardo Dicaprio being tormented by the harsh cold and unforgiving forest as they inflict more injury to Leo’s already shredded body. And no I don’t mean he has great abs! Think, Passion of the Christ shredded.
Glass comes in contact with several different people, one being the kidnapped daughter of the Indian chief Powaqa. He rescues her from her French captors, which comes in handy at the end of the movie! We also see Fitzgerald and Bridger make their way home, all while the Indians from the beginning of the movie are still searching and ready to kill any white men they come across.
I’m going to share the end of the movie because I don’t think the value of this film is in it’s surprise story plots. But if you want simply skip the next paragraph and you’ll be none the wiser.
Fitzgerald and Bridger make it to base where the rest of their team are waiting. A man Glass came across on his path home had a canteen belonging to glass and the team finds out he is still alive. Fitzgerald runs off, stealing any money he can from the base and heads for Texas. A search party is sent for Glass and they find him, bring him back to base, and try to do what they can for Glass’ injuries. Glass and team leader Andrew Henry go looking for Fitzgerald and find him not far off. Fitzgerald manages to kill Henry but Glass gets the upper hand. Just as he is about to kill Fitzgerald he remembers from an Indian friend that “revenges is in the creator’s hands.” He lets Fitzgerald go, and I’ll stop there. That’s at least the end of Dicaprio’s story arc.
Let me make this simple, you need to see this movie, and in a theater! It is such a satisfying and self-contained story. There will never be a sequel, and you’ll never need one.
The Revenant is one of the most exhilarating movies I’ve had the privilege of seeing. And I didn’t worry about telling the majority of the story because seeing it and experiencing it is what makes the difference. As much as it kills me to sound like a cliché old hippy, this is all about the journey and not the destination.
The trailers put the bear attack front and center, and rightfully so. This is intense and only topped by the reveal of Dicaprio’s wounds throughout the movie. There wasn’t much CGI but the bear certainly was and it looked great.
This movie has such a raw quality the feeds perfectly into the story. ALL lighting was natural in this film. They got whatever the sunlight, moonlight, or campfire allowed. You see every grain of dirt mashed into their beards. All the grease and spit and blood is put on display without any vanity in sight. There are several times where you get so in the actors faces that their breathe fogs up the camera lens. The score is minimal and rarely overpowered by the sounds of the forest. You’ve never enjoyed hearing snow melt or rivers flow like you will in this film.
The journey Dicaprio takes in this movie is such a marvel to behold. It is stretched out over a long period of time so it never feels gratuitous but it leaves an impact. I hesitate to spoil some of the amazing things Dicaprio’s character goes through but it was just so powerful to see I have to share a few.
Actually eating raw fish and bison spleen aside, Dicaprio performs one of the greatest call backs to The Empire Strikes Back by removing the organs of his recently deceased horse and spending a night in the carcass for warmth. That was after they just fell over a cliff. Chuck Norris never did that.
Please don’t hear my enthusiasm for an insane stunt like that and think this is some macho fairy tale. The blood is there, the intense battles are there, but this movie is so much more. You almost forget that Glass is seeking revenge because he seems to have a hard enough time just staying alive regardless of motivation. You genuinely root for him to survive and beat the elements. And there is heart…
This is where I want the review to have it’s foundation, because the worldview this movie is telling completely shocked me. This is a tale of forgiveness. It’s subtle, but it’s there. The intense hatred that Glass survives on (seeking “justice” for the life of his child) is overcome with a message of forgiveness, and it’s pointed straight back to God.
Along his journey Glass meets a lone Indian who gives him food and shelter. After Glass tells him his story the Indian’s words stand out sharply among the surrounding violence and aggression, “revenge is in the creator’s hands.” It seems so oddly placed.
Three-fourths through the movie Glass comes across the remnants of an old church, where the only thing still standing are partial walls and a crucifix with Christ hung on it. In his disillusionally pain-driven state he has a vision of his dead son walking from that cross to him with a warm embrace. In actuality Leonardo Dicaprio is hugging a tree, but the point is made a little more clear. Finally, in one of the last moments of the film we hear Glass remark “revenge is in God’s hands, not mine.”
Going through this movie, you could have never guessed that this is how it would end. But looking back and seeing everything that led up to it, the subtlety is a welcomed choice. This man goes through the coldest hell you will ever see and comes through it with a powerful forgiveness in his heart.
The acting is amazing. Tom Hardy is SO evil and becomes very unrecognizable (as usual) in his leather pelts and impressive southern drawl. The man is British, so points to him! Leonardo Dicaprio will most likely receive an Oscar, because he gives everything. It’s hard to decide what’s better, the acting or the visuals.
But even beyond that, this movie has you so invested in the journey and the ending just nails it. So many modern movies are obsessed with setting up sequels to the point where a complete story is never fully told. I saw this movie with my brother and we both stood up, stretched (once again, over two and a half hour movie) and couldn’t express our satisfaction with what we had experienced quick enough. Don’t rent this, you wont get the same effect. Experience it in theaters, take the difficult journey, and you wont be let down.
I’d love to say more so if you want to talk about this movie, or any other movie for that matter, email me at email@example.com
Review by Ryan