Movie Review: “The Revenant”



Contributing Writer

With rumors of Leonardo DiCaprio’s potentially award-winning performance, theaters across the country have been filled with viewers excited to see “The Revenant.” When watching “The Revenant,” I found the film to be a complex and unique cinematic experience that takes the audience into the dark heart of the early American Frontier.

Inspired by true events, Oscar winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu shows the audience, first hand, the incredible account of fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who was mauled by a bear and left for dead by his fellow men in the frozen wilderness of the American frontier in the 1820s. When Glass survives, he has only one thing on his mind: revenge.

The set-up of the film is relatively straight forward. The film begins with a fur trapping expedition led by Captain Henry. Henry is accompanied by Glass, Glass’s half Native-American son Hawk, the self-interested Fitzgerald and the young Jim Bridger. When their expedition comes under attack by the Natives of the area in a brutal battle, the trappers are forced to leave their camp as well as most of their valuable pets. As they make their escape, Glass is attacked and brutally mauled by a grizzly bear in one of the film’s most unforgettable sequences. Henry assigns Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger to stay with the ill-fated Glass and give him proper burial once he died. The pair don’t follow orders and leave Glass to die alone in the woods. The remainder of the film is a long, brutal journey of physical and emotional endurance by Glass as he seeks his revenge.

The Revenant is a tremendous feat in filmmaking. Shot using only natural lighting, utilizing several complicated one-take tracking shots and beautiful establishing shots, Iñárritu does a wonderful job of fully immersing the viewer into the time period. What appears on screen is both beautiful and brutal. The film pulls no punches in showing the audience just how hard survival in the frontier was during this time period.

The great filmmaking would be all for not if the characters failed to strike a chord. Thanks to absolutely incredible performances by DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, viewers get every nuance from each of the characters. DiCaprio utilizes acting without words and some of his most powerful scenes are just him reacting to what’s going on around him. Hardy has the more talkative role but gives an equally phenomenal performance as the scarred Fitzgerald. He’s matter-of-fact, greedy, tough and bigoted, but he never strays into the clichéd, bad-guy territory that other frontier films tend to have.

This is not a film for all tastes. It’s long, unrelenting and not pleasant to sit through. The ending is also very abrupt and can be viewed as a bit underwhelming. Some may find the film pretentious, but it is very refreshing to see a film take chances.