I admit I am one of the few remaining people who hadn’t see The Revenant. I finally managed to get some time out to watch it over the weekend. With all the hype The Revenant is getting at the awards, most recently at the BAFTAs, I was indeed curious as to what the big deal is.
So, does The Revenant lives up to the hype it’s generated? My answer is a resounding yes. With that yes, I have to say there is an undertone of a No.
Much to my surprise, when I asked around what the word revenant means, many didn’t know. A revenant is someone who comes back from the dead, and in this case, it refers to the character of Hugh Glass played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
The setting is 1823 in the vast un-colonized plains of what is now known as Missouri, USA. A group of trappers hunt down animals and collect their pelts for trade. Barely a few minutes into the movie, we see an arrow shot through one of the trapper’s neck. They are being invaded by the locals (Red Indians) and a battle ensues. A man’s head is bashed in with the back of a rifle. We know we are not in for a safe ride, but one that of cruelty and harshness.
In the chase, the group of white men are able to escape the Pawnees. We get to know that Glass has a son, who is half Pawnee. We also meet the others in the group, including Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). While out hunting, Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear in a scene that’s executed amazingly well, not to mention how graphic it is. With deep wounds and punctures left by the bear, the group who attempts to take Glass back to the camp, divide whether to abandon him or take him home. Fitzgerald and young Jim Brigadier, along with Glass’ son Hawk all decide to stay back with Glass. In a turn of event, Glass’ son Hawk is killed and Glass is abandoned and left for dead.
But this movie is about a revenant. Glass is not dead, but alive, and makes it his life mission to seek down the man who killed his son and avenge his death. Through a series of barren landscapes and hostile environmental conditions, our hero attempts to hunt down Fitzgerald. This forms the crux of the movie.
Not So Plus Points
It’s a long movie, sitting at 2 hours 36 minutes. While I absolutely loved the landscapes, and long shots of dark skies and sunrise, after the fifth lingering shot of some beautiful scenery, one does get a little tired. You feel like telling the director to skip the scenery shots and get the story moving on. By the time we see the close up shot of a horse’s eyes, you are tempted to press the forward button. So there is a constant battle in your mind of how long can you indulge in the landscapes and take a break from the story. This is to not take away from the awesome job though done by the technical team.
One other small issue I had was with the authenticity of the story. Having done some research, there are accounts which don’t corroborate with Hugh Glass’s actual story. He didn’t make the trek back in the winter season, nor did he marry a Pawnee. A lot of artistic license has been taken to amp up the dramatic elements of the movie.
The Plus Points
Now that the minor gripes are out of the way, I have to say that I was indeed blown away by DiCaprio’s acting. You can tell how hard he’s worked for this role, and how much effort he has put into it. The accent, the dirty crooked teeth, speaking the local language, the anguish, the intensity—it’s a job done extremely well. He does indeed deserve the acting awards he’s been raking up.
Secondly, technically, the movie is way too good. During the quieter scenes, you can actually hear the drop of water coming from the rear speakers. The entire bear attack scene is filmed so realistically, one couldn’t decipher where the real bear and where the effects are. The horse scene, where Glass gets into the belly of the horse, was executed with such brilliance. Photography is done amazingly well, and you can sense the isolation and loneliness that the director is trying to evoke by showing the emptiness of the plains.
Thirdly, the last scene between Glass and Fitzgerald. It blew me away because it was very unexpected. Glass finally manages to catch up to the man who killed his son, and after a rather gory and intense fight (where fingers are chopped off and body parts are stabbed at), Glass has a moment where he’s cornered Fitzgerald.
“You came all this way just for your revenge, huh? Did you enjoy it, Glass?… ‘Cause there ain’t nothin’ gon’ bring your boy back.,” says Fitzgerald.
“No,” says Glass. “Revenge is in God’s hands not mine..”
With that, he merely releases his enemy and let the laws of nature take revenge. It was such a powerful moment, making us realize that while we may be angry to seek revenge, that it’s not up to us to carry out an eye for an eye, but to let God sort it out on His terms.
There are some very interesting dialogues that can set up for a more detailed movie discussions, such as:
Hugh Glass’s Wife: As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe. Keep breathing. When there is a storm and you stand in front of a tree, if you look at its branches, you swear it will fall. But if you watch the trunk, you will see its stability.
Hikuc: My heart bleeds. But revenge is in the creator’s hands.
Credit goes to Alejandro G. Iñárritu for directing a masterpiece. While technically the movie is brilliant, the story felt very basic, and even though one does enjoy witnessing the world as it was in 1823, one does get slightly bored by the time we see the fifth shot of a barren landscape. I am also not sure how well this movie will translate on to a TV screen, so do make sure to catch this on the big screen with surround sound system.
3.5 out of 5