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Dan's Review: "The Revenant" a gritty, great film

Jan 07, 2016 11:45AM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant - © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox

The Revenant (20th Century Fox)

Rated R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Paul Anderson, Brendan Fletcher, Kristoffer Joner, Brad Carter, Lukas Haas, Melaw Nakehk’o, Duane Howard, Fabrice Adde, Joshua Burge, Arthur RedCloud, Grace Dove.

Written by Mark L. Smith and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, based on the book by by Michael Punke.

Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu.



Compelling true stories are hard to come by, and even harder to replicate in cinema, especially when they happened almost 2 centuries ago. The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio is a film “based on true events,” which usually means the general details are contrived. None of that matters a lot if an artisan like Alejandro Iñárritu can make such a tale into great film.

DiCaprio stars as the real-life Hugh Glass, a trapper and guide who worked the Dakota frontier in the early 1820s. As he guides an expedition of trappers, they come under attack from an Arikara war party, losing most of their men before escaping on a boat down a river. Glass’s son teenage Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) accompanies him as the surviving trappers try to salvage their pelts and get back to their fort unscathed. The trappers are led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), who relies on Glass’ frontier expertise and experience gained while living with a Pawnee tribe. Glass’ late Pawnee wife (Grace Dove) and Hawk’s mother was killed as her village was wiped out by French soldiers years earlier.  Shortly after the Arikara massacre, Glass is attacked by a mother grizzly bear, leaving him gravely injured. Capt. Henry eventually decides to leave Glass under the care of Hawk, a fellow tapper named John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and another teen who would later go on to fame as the famous explorer Jim Bridger (Will Poulter). Fearful that the Arikaras will attack again, Fitzgerald kills Hawk and convinces Bridger to leave Glass for dead.

Glass survives and spends several days (perhaps weeks) trying to get back to the fort where he plans to exact revenge upon Fitzgerald. His adventures lead him to cross paths with a group of French trappers who have kidnapped an Arikara girl that they keep around for sexual abuse. Glass eventually gets back to the fort, but Fitzgerald escapes and the pair engage in a bloody encounter in the nearby woods.

All historic accuracy aside, The Revenant is an incredible film from start to finish, and one of the best of 2015 (it had a limited release in December). Iñárritu’s careful, innovative direction and Emmanuel Lubeski’s beautiful cinematography are inspiring and breathtaking, as the story’s pace never lets up. Incidentally, the story of Glass’ survival after a bear attack and being left for dead and his gripe with Fitzgerald are mostly true elements of his life.

This may be DiCaprio’s best performance of his career, and his best chance at taking home an Oscar. Tom Hardy’s performance is equally brilliant, as usual.

The Revenant is also a brutal film, with plenty of bloody violence and disturbing images, especially the very realistic bear attack that is wincingly hard to watch (not to mention the first aid rendered afterward). It’s not the most violent movie I’ve seen, but it’s a good idea to leave the kids home for this one.

The Revenant Trailer

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