Growing up I remember watching Jeremiah Johnson with Robert Redford. He played a soldier who wanted to retreat from war and find peace in nature and being a mountain man. He learns it’s a hard life but he survives many hardships and earns the respect of Indian and white man alike. In 1972, it was considered a gritty, realistic picture of that time. It’s an excellent picture, well directed by Sydney Pollack. Now in 2015 we get a new view of those rugged times.
The Revenant is a beautifully filmed meditation on revenge and survival. It is gritty, grueling and as you leave the theater you are sure that you are freezing cold. This won’t be to everyone’s liking but if you are up for a film experience unlike the one’s you are accustomed to then you will be well rewarded.
The film is based on the novel, The Revenant by Michael Punke which is loosely based on real life frontiersman Hugh Glass. Leonard DiCaprio plays Glass who, along with his half Indian son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), are scouts for an expedition of fur traders. They run into a hostile party of Indians who are looking for one of their woman who has been stolen by white men. This battle is intense and fantastically shot. What is left of the group manage to get back to their boat and get away but they know that they are being chased and at Glass’ urging, get off the boat and make their way on foot back to their fort. The film takes place around the 1820s and the land is unsettled and dangerous. Glass has the misfortune of running across some baby cubs and gets viciously attacked by a large bear. This is a tough scene. The ladies that accompanied me were in tears by the end of it. Glass manages to barely survive but as the weather worsens and the snow begins it becomes harder to carry him and more dangerous as the Indians that attacked them are hot on their trail. The leader of the group, Captain Henry (Domnhall Gleason), feeling Glass is near death, offers to pay two men to stay behind to look after him and, once dead, to give him a proper burial. A young man, Bridger (Will Poulter) volunteers as does Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a more hardened man who is more concerned with the pelts they left behind and getting paid then nursing a dying man.
Fitzgerald gets impatient. Worried about the Indians catching up to them, he tries to convince Glass to agree to his own mercy killing. Hawk happens upon them and fights to protect his father and is killed by Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald lies to Bridger, saying Glass died, Hawk has disappeared and that the Indians were in sight and that they had to leave immediately. Believe it or not, this is just the beginning.
Directed by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki fresh off their Academy Award wins for Birdman, have created another unique movie experience. The film is gorgeous, shot using only natural light and with camera movements that are thrilling. DiCaprio hardly speaks a word throughout, his performance is mostly physical and psychological. He’s an ambitious actor that is always looking for a challenge and he’s more than up for this one. Tom Hardy matches him in intensity as the object of DiCaprio’s rage. Hardy has been good in many movies, most recently, Mad Max:Fury Road and The Drop, and it finally seems his time has come. The landscape is most certainly the third main character in this film. It’s amazing that the filmmakers found such locations that seem so untouched by the modern world. It really lent to the credibility of the story and the performances.