There are parts of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant I like and parts I like less. There are some truly unforgettable sequences in this sprawling tale of a broken Hugh Glass’s will to survive, along with a few elements that detract more than compliment. The Oscar buzz surrounding this one is thick, especially for its star Leonardo Dicaprio. Does his performance deserve it? He physically went through hell for this role; from wading into freezing rivers, crawling and dragging himself across a frozen landscape, eating raw buffalo meat and so on. For his commitment and what he endured I think he earned it. Was it the best piece of acting he’s ever done, hard to say? The academy has a way of awarding people for their past achievements through their current projects and at this point Leo is due. If he doesn’t win, then the ‘what do I have to do to impress these people? I ate raw buffalo meat for god’s sake!’ comments would come fast and furious.
Why exactly did Leo and the rest of the crew put themselves through such extreme circumstances? For art? Art has a weird way of gaining access to things that other human endeavors seem to be shut out of. A big caveat it seems to hang its hat on is the nobility of suffering. If this is the case, then The Revenant is of the 10 gallon persuasion. The film is based partially on the true life story of Hugh Glass who was a fur-trapper in the early 19th century. The real story goes: that in 1823, deep in the wilderness, while out setting traps he was attacked and mauled badly by a Grizzly bear protecting her cubs. Hugh Glass was severely injured and unable to travel. The rest of his hunting party needed to continue on so they left two men to take care of him and bury him when he passed. The two men left with this task were John Fitzgerald (played by a brilliant Tom Hardy in the movie) and a younger gentleman (Will Poulter). The two men assuming Glass was on death’s door pack up and abandon him but Mr. Glass had other plans. This is enough story, but then Hollywood tries to spin its magic and that’s where things go south. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into details, but all the magic embellishments kind of distract from what could have been a brilliant movie.
The movie is flawed, but definitely worth seeing, especially on the big screen. There are two reasons to see this film: 1.the landscape captured in natural light is absolutely gorgeous, 2. the bear attack sequence is one of the most visceral terrifying bits of film making in recent memory.