Movie Review: The Revenant (2015) #AtoZChallenge

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter R

Welcome to the Panorama of the Mountains Blogging A to Z Challenge. This year I’m watching and reviewing movies from A-to-Z based on my ongoing Classic Movie Project. Most movies will be featured on one or more of three lists: AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies (USA), The Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time (UK), and Cahiers du Cinéma Greatest Films of All Time (France). In some cases, I will be very creative in assigning a Classic Movie to a letter of the alphabet, and in a few cases the movie I watch will not be Classic Movies at all.

There were no “R” films on these classic films lists that I hadn’t reviewed, so I watched a recent movie that I’d been wanting to see instead.

TitleThe Revenant
Release Date: December 25, 2015
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Production Company: Regency Enterprises | RatPac Entertainment | New Regency | Anonymous Content | M Productions | Appian Way Productions

I’ve been wanting to watch The Revenant for some time even though I only knew two things about the movie: Leonardo DiCaprio finally won a Best Actor award for his role in the movie and DiCaprio fights a bear.  The bear attack comes early in the movie so it’s no big spoiler to mention it here.  The main story is how DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass survives his severe injuries from the bear despite being abandoned in the wilderness and facing numerous other challenges.

Glass is a guide for a group of American trappers in the Dakota region in the 1820s, along with his teenage son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck).  A greedy trapper charged with watching over Glass, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), instead lies to a young member of the party, Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), that an attack by a Arikara war party is imminent abandoning Glass.  Glass has to recover from his injuries and return to the fur-trading post on his own, encountering Akira and hostile French trappers as well as naturally obstacles en route.

DiCaprio puts in a great performance, almost becoming bear-like as he is only able to crawl and grunt due to his injuries.  The natural scenery of the West is beautifully captured in this film.  But the film also captures all of the gruesome detail of the vary abuses the human body can suffer, and is unflinching in depicting what Glass must do to survive.  It almost felt like you could smell the body odor emanating from this film. There’s a lot of brutality depicted in the conflicts of this film.  But there is also shared humanity such as when Glass receives aid from a lone Pawnee man, Hikuc (Arthur Redcloud).

The story of Hugh Glass surviving a bear attack is based on true-life events although the film is heavily embellished.  For one thing, no one was killed in the real-life story, while this film has a massive body count.  I found it interesting that Jim Bridger was a character in this film, because his name came up again and again when I was planning my trip to Yellowstone last year.  There is some question though if the real life Jim Bridger was actually present for the events depicted in this film.

I feel that Glass surviving a bear mauling and then making a multi-day journey on foot is a compelling enough story on its own.  Unfortunately, the film depicts Glass experience additional physical trauma that beggars belief and the final party of the film is a vengeance plot.  Together these aspects make the movie about half-an-hour longer than it needs to be. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating and well-crafted story of survival.  I think it would be interesting to pair The Revenant with First Cow, as they are set in the same time period and share some historical similarities.

Rating: ***1/2