Despite some flaws, The Revenant entertains and impresses

Jack Stenglein

 

If you in any way have an aversion to blood, violence or gore, then stay far away from The Revenant. Right from the first scene, the movie starts off with a bang, as a group of frontiersmen are suddenly attacked by a tribe of Native Americans. Arrows and musket balls fly, and at the end of the battle, dozens lie dead. A small group of the mountain men have escaped on a boat, and it is this group that contains the protagonist of the movie, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Glass in The Revenant is loosely based on real-life frontiersman Hugh Glass, who was mauled by a grizzly bear and then left for dead during General William Ashley’s 1823 expedition up the Missouri River. Despite the odds, he survives the attack and wakes up alone and without any food or equipment. The movie follows his journey to get back to civilization and take revenge on those who left him. Not much is known about the real Glass, and the movie takes advantage of this fact by making him into an almost superhuman figure. No matter what gets thrown his way, whether an icy blizzard or a 30-foot drop from a cliff, Glass continues to keep fighting and somehow survives.

The movie is directed by Alejandro Iñárritu, who won the Academy Award for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best picture for Birdman. In directing The Revenant, Iñárritu insisted on shooting with natural lighting and in sequence. While this added to the movie’s budget, the result is a beautifully-shot film.

DiCaprio does a great job in his role as Glass, even if he never actually says that much. In fact, most of DiCaprio’s screen time is filled with screams, gasps, tears and heavy breathing. The few times he does speak, it is in a quiet, hoarse voice due to a throat wound (that he self-cauterizes with gunpowder). Despite this though, DiCaprio still makes us root for Glass, and it is his performance that keeps the The Revenant from being just another man-against-nature survivalist movie. Instead, the movie is a moving lesson on the strength of perseverance and willpower.

Along with DiCaprio, the other actors all gave strong performances. In particular, Will Poulter, who plays Jim Bridger, and Tom Hardy, who plays John Fitzgerald, stood out. These two characters are the last to leave Glass and were tasked with making sure he was buried after he died. They abandon their mission, and while Bridger feels guilty, Fitzgerald is confident that they made the right choice.

 
The movie had two main faults: its length and its ending. Glass’s story is amazing, but at two hours and 36 minutes, it can also be a bit exhausting at times. There were a number of scenes that could have been shortened or even removed entirely without taking any value away from the movie. Perhaps more important, though, is the ending, which was very unfulfilling. After the extreme length of the movie, the end was abrupt and felt almost rushed, leaving many questions about the status of Glass’s physical and mental health. However, despite these shortcomings, the movie was still entertaining and interesting, making it at least worth one watch. DiCaprio has good chances of winning an Oscar for the film as well, so any fan of his should definitely make plans to go see it.