Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
A friend had told me about The Revenant years ago, but I really wasnít interested in seeing it. I had seen previews and new it was based on the semi-biographical novel about frontiersman Hugh Glass, but the film never really grabbed me. I think Leonardo DiCaprio is a good actor, but not good enough to make me pay for the price of a movie ticket. And then, last month, I got sickÖcouldnít move from the bedÖand found myself staring at this movie I never had interest in seeing.
The Revenant takes place in the unorganized territory near the Missouri River in 1823. Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is acting as a guide for Major Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) and his fur-trappers. Unfortunately, while Hugh and his half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), are hunting, the party is attacked by an Arikara Indian war party. They lose quite a few people and are forced to hide the numerous pelts they have captured in an effort to move faster along the terrain, gaining distance from the war party they have just escaped.
Shortly afterwards, Glass is mauled by a grizzly bear, the attack leaving him near death. Trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) argues that they should finish the job started by the bear, believing it to be a mercy killing. That way, they can move on, get to Fort Kiowa and come back for their pelts with Army reinforcements. Though he agrees, Henry is unable to pull the trigger and instead offers up a reward for those willing to stay with Glass until they can get help. Hawk and his friend Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) agree to stay, as does Fitzgerald, begrudgingly hoping to recoup the loss of the pelts he was forced to abandon.
As Glass seems to take a turn for the worst, Fitzgerald weighs his options. He decides to kill Glass when the others are away from camp. Unfortunately, he is discovered by Hawk who attempts to prevent Glass from killing his father. In the end, Fitzgerald kills hawk and leaves Glass for dead, convincing Bridger that the Arikara are on their trail. When the two arrive at Fort Kiowa, Fitzgerald tells Henry that Glass died and Hawk disappeared.
Meanwhile, Glass, having witnessed his sonís murder, uses his anger and anguish to spur himself into action. Revenge is a strong motivator, but can it help him cross the frozen tundra of a winter wilderness, avoid the Arikara war party still hunting for their Chiefís kidnapped daughter, while still suffering the injuries and infection brought on by the initial attack of the grizzly? Only time will tell.
As Glass travels through the wilderness, fever dreams allow us to glimpse his past with his son and his motivation to survive so he can avenge him. We witness the murder of a Pawnee village, the woman he loved (Grace Dove) and the words he whispered to his young son, willing him to survive a disease. These flashback moments are incredibly touching. Too bad they never actually took place. The people who made this film took incredible license with the tale of Hugh Glass and history doesnít quite agree with the idea of Glass having a Pawnee wife or son. History does agree with this manís journey and survival having to do with revenge. However, that revenge was allegedly over a stolen gun.
That being said, there is some incredible acting here. Leonardo DiCaprio doesnít do much acting in the form of dialogue, but his role is intense, nonetheless. Tom Hardy was incredibly arrogant and hateful as John Fitzgerald. You actually will find yourself rooting for this manís demise, especially after the numerous prejudicial and obnoxious comments he makes throughout the film. Hardy has been amazing in every film Iíve seen him in, but this role makes you hate him and that says a lot about his acting.
The cinematography is terrific and the beauty of the landscapes in the film is incredibly. If there were no story and no volume on this film, I could simply watch the amazing wilderness scenes to be found here. And of course, there is that grizzly attack scene that everyone has been talking about. I knew it was supposed to be gory, but wow! Thatís all I can say about it. When you see the initial attack, you will be amazed at the special effects needed to make this look real, but after the second and third attack, youíll be like, ďWoah! How does this guy survive this thing!Ē forgetting that the bear and human in the scene arenít real.
The storyline of The Revenant had me shaking my head. I liked the idea that this man would do just about anything he had to while on his death bed to avenge his child. The idea was conceptually awe-inspiring. Too bad it was less than probable and, in the end, not real. However, this guy really did survive a bear attack that left him near-dead, so I guess it was possible. In the end, I had to take this film at face value and realized that I found it entertaining, though not the best film I had ever seen. I still would recommend it to fans of the old western/adventure films. Just forget that this was supposed to be based on a biography and enjoy the story.