Screened Out – The Revenant

By : Stephen Miller
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Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck

Beautiful, savage, and relentless; those are the words that come to mind watching The Revenant, the newest film by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel). The acting is brilliant. The landscape photography is gorgeous. The film makes its point long, long, long before it’s willing to move on.

It’s like its protagonist – driven, focused, and overwhelmingly cruel. Whether The Revenant succeeds depends on how committed you are to a dogged, ferocious film at 2 hours and 40 minutes, as horrifying, bloody, cruddy things keep piling up.

Like Babel and Birdman before it, The Revenant is very much director Alejandro González Iñárritu's film.

Like Babel and Birdman before it, The Revenant is very much director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film.

It’s all based on a real explorer, Hugh Glass, but only slightly. We’ll get more into that in a few moments…

DiCaprio portrays Glass, a wilderness guide in post-Civil War Wyoming. He once married a Pawnee bride. In many circles, this makes him the subject of distrust, or worse, outright discrimination. So it’s not surprising to see the wife shot and his son set on fire by Calvary.

With a scarred face as reminder, Glass’s now teenaged son, Hawk (Goodluck), helps Dad guide trappers and hunters through the brutal winter wilderness – that’s their income. After Cherokees attack the hunting team, the white folks and this Indian boy cut across the snow, fighting to get back to a U.S. fort.

The entire movie becomes an endurance test – for the characters crawling through the deep snow, for the audience watching.

Along the way, a grizzly bear tears Glass to gory shreds. Bloodied, half-conscious Glass and his son are left in the care of a dumb, violent man, Fitzgerald (Hardy). Fitzgerald leaves Glass for dead in a shallow grave after murdering the son. Glass lives – barely – and then crawls across early 1800s American wilderness to exact revenge… bloody, horrible revenge.

Thomas Hardy is almost unrecognizable.

Thomas Hardy is almost unrecognizable.

It’d be one thing if that were the whole of The Revenant – the title means a person or ghost back from the dead, and often very, very angry at that.

The film is obviously meant to be a tribute to determination in the midst of constant brutality.

Iñárritu based this on a real man’s life, but it’s easy to see that what happens couldn’t possibly be one single winter. In his whole life, the real Glass endured through years of bear attack, Indian wars, wilderness tests, racial tension, and a host of other horrifying stuff. Iñárritu crams all this hardship into a single season, inventing and then murdering the son just to make it even more awful.

The bear attack is true, as is Glass’s slog across the Dakota winters to find the men who left him to die. His flesh was rotted, his leg was broken, and his throat was slashed. You’d think this was enough tragedy to make a movie. Instead, Iñárritu layers on the misfortune – blizzard after blizzard of crud – until the movie is hard to watch, much less believe.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

That’s not to say the scenery isn’t breathtaking, lovingly filmed in high-definition. The acting – especially DiCaprio’s mostly silent turn…slashed throat and all…is amazing. The effects makeup is detailed and morbidly realistic, the wounds almost emanating a rotting smell.

As a technical marvel, The Revenant should snag a lot of nominations. As a film you want to experience, see it only if you have the stomach and the fortitude of an 1800s trapper.

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