A short while ago a friend of mine recommended a podcast for me to check out and specifically an episode done on legendary American bad-ass Hugh Glass. I had never actually heard of Glass before and, to be honest, I wasn’t all that intrigued at first. Then my friend told me that Leonardo DiCaprio would be portraying Glass in an upcoming film, and if you know me you know I like to handcuff movies whenever possible by reading the book or doing research on the subject. After listening to the recommended podcast and doing a little further research I found that it was safe to say that if all accounts are true, Hugh Glass was indeed a bona fide tough guy. Glass’s life and times as early 1800s frenemy to Native Americans and accomplished mountain man are compelling to say the least. I wouldn’t want to give away too much, but it’s safe to say that Glass overcame incredibly long odds fueled by a combination of determination and rage most of us will never know. As compelling as all of that may be, after hearing Glass’s story I had a difficult time figuring out how Hollywood would reconcile it on the screen.
In The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a north woods mountain man employed along with his half Pawnee son Hawk by a fur trading company to harvest beaver pelts and defend production against the savage Ree Indians of the Dakotas. After a brutal Ree attack that cuts down the majority of their company, the remaining crew and their leader, Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) are forced to trek through treacherous territory to return to their fort with Glass leading the way. After another horrible encounter, this one with a more natural phenomenon, Glass is left incapacitated and on the verge of death. Unwilling to finish him off or leave him alone, Captain Henry leaves Hawk, young Bridger (Will Poulter) and grizzled complainer John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) with the task of waiting out Glass’s certain death, providing a proper burial and returning to the company. Ultimately, Glass finds himself alone and determined to seek vengeance upon the men who left him to die.
Much has been made of the way director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki filmed The Revenant, choosing to shoot chronologically and using only natural light. While arguably unnecessary, the effect is undeniably beautiful. The landscapes are breathtaking, especially in contrast to the frequently horrifying events and imagery of the film.
The acting here makes the film, especially in regards to DiCaprio and Hardy who get the meat of the material by far. It’s a testament to DiCaprio’s talent that his dedication to the role-which was apparently very immersive in filming-is almost enough to make you forget that he might not quite meet the physical stature of the character he portrays. It’s a shame he wasn’t given opportunity to explore more of an emotional range with Glass, but more about that later. Tom Hardy continues to stand out in his role of the duplicitous Fitzgerald. He manages to make his villainy seem pragmatic and a lesser antagonist might have sunk the story. The idea of Glass and Fitzgerald facing off is what keeps the wheels turning.
Unfortunately, when all is said and done, The Revenant is tough to get through. It’s too long by a mile and twice as sanctimonious. It’s incredibly derivative, from its well-worn plot devices to its dime store mysticism. Long on suffering both on the screen and in the theatre, it’s no surprise that the one moment of spontaneous frivolity in the entirety of the film delivered the biggest audience reaction and afforded DiCaprio his best opportunity to engage the theater with his character. The movie needed more of that or less of everything else.
The Revenant will ultimately pile up a number of nominations and awards and honestly that feels like the only reason it was made. No trick is too much for this film as it tugs on every emotional heart string and guilt complex it could possibly wring from moviegoers. People will love this film because it’s the kind of film that makes you feel proud of yourself for liking it, but I personally would have preferred a nice, strait forward revenge adventure. Preaching is for church and so, probably, is this much suffering.
|The Revenant (2016)|
|Director:||Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu|
|Release Date:||January 8th, 2016|