MOVIE – In his Golden Globe prized role as the legendary explorer, Hugh Glass, Leonardo DiCaprio is mauled by a bear and severely damaged then left for dead left for dead by members of his own hunting team. Guided by revenge and redemption, Glass must survive and navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find those who betrayed him. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s western movie illustrates us the almost unimaginable cruelty of men.
In European culture, the word “revenant” is more about the undead, than someone, who “just” comes back from somewhere. Mauled by a bear and left for dead, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) looks the part of the undead. Gravely wounded and almost buried alive he still finds the will and force to live in the harsh environment of the 1820’s American wilderness, where wild animals and bloodthirsty and cruel men (both trappers and natives) are hunting and massacring each other.
It’s the survival of the fittest for everyone: kill or be killed, if you are weak, hide from the stronger enemy, or you will be slain mercilessly. Humans are acting like animals
Men against the wilderness
One of the strongest and most insane sequences not only in this movie but also in the whole history of cinematography is the now famous bear attack scenes. Yes, of course, it’s CGI, as it would be impossible to film such a scene with a live, real bear, but it looks so real that you will swear Leonardo DiCaprio went through a real ordeal just to get the Oscar (from the bear).
Puns aside, the scene is not only truly shocking but also extremely well filmed and truly captures the horror of the savage attack of an animal, which is much stronger than you.
Men against men
Besides the horrors and beauty of the wilderness, the violence and guile of men in the early 1800’s in the Wild West are also shown with expertise – both in the scenario and the directing. The first Indian attack against the trappers surpasses almost everything that was filmed in western movies so far.
There’s no moral distinction between “good” or “bad” Indians, as in the film adaptations of James Fenimore Cooper novels (The last of the Mohicans for example). The Indians are savagely killing the invaders, but they are also driven by their own motives.
The white men are doing everything to survive but also to get rich fast. Tom Hardy is excellent as John Fitzgerald, the “villain” of the story, who hates the Indians wholeheartedly and betrays and sometimes kills, or tries to kill others to cover his tracks or to get rich. Hardy’s portrayal equals that of Leonardo DiCaprio: while the latter shows the sufferance and dedication to survive, Hardy’s acting is less physical and more “in character”. Both actors are mesmerizing in this movie, and the same can be said about the interaction between them.
Not without small issues
Overall I truly recommend The Revenant – if you can stand the cruelty portrayed against both men and animals of course. Forget every movie you watched so far about the Wild West – this is the most savage of them all. As realistic as it can get.
As may be a contrast to the savagery of men, we can see some trance-like scenes where Glass remembers his Indian wife (or mate). Those scenes are perhaps a bit cliché, and they are repeated too much during the movie.
Yes, we get it, that Glass was already a man “haunted by his wife’s death” already before the bear’s attack, but his constant mourning visions take away a bit from the real motivation of Glass to survive. Those scenes can be compared to the visions of Mad Max about his late wife where they were integrated in a smarter way and as a more organic part to the whole story.
That nitpicking aside Iñárritu presents us a truly haunting movie that will be with you for a long time after you left the movie theater.