Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Revenant: If You Like Being Murdered and Getting Stuck in the Plains

Have you ever seen Apocalypto? Did you like it? If so The Revenant may be for you. A movie so intense that murder is one of its low points. I probably don't have to tell you what this is about, but let's get into it.

The year is 1820-something. Hugh Glass and his son, Hawk, are trackers, and part of a fur trapping expedition in the American wilderness. After the company's camp is attacked by native Americans, the remaining men try to make it back to the fort where their company is based. Which works pretty okay-- until Glass gets attacked by a bear. Miraculously, though he survives the attack, he significantly slows down the journey back to the fort. After three men are enlisted to stay behind and care for him, a mistake and betrayal is made and tragedy strikes. Glass is left for dead. There's only one problem -- he's not. The remainder of the film is seeing Glass fight his way back to the fort while touching in on what's happened to the rest of company, the native Americans who first attacked them, and the innumerable other, untrackable people that inhabit the American wilderness.

The main thing that The Revenant does well is to make you stop and think about how incredible it is that anyone survived the West at all. Watching each step that the men make in trying to reach safety is nothing short of miraculous. Never mind Glass cheating death, infection, and a lot of other things, even the men who are in good health have their safety threatened every single day. Between rival fur trappers and the native Americans defending their land, it's a small wonder that anyone would survive and then decide to take up permanent residence there.

The Revenant also does a good job of not playing Good Guy/Bad Guy. Throughout the movie we get to see the perspectives of not only the newly settled Americans, but also the French, and the native tribes who were there before either of them. We also get to see a full spectrum of how easy it would be to become paranoid in those days, and untrusting of the minimal company that surrounded you day-to-day.

"You hear that?"

And now for the not-so-good.

To be honest, this is one of those films that I wish I hadn't heard about. I tried to turn a blind eye to all of the hype that it was getting but heard a few tidbits here and there about the things that the crew had been through in the reach for authenticity. But to be honest, it made the movie incredibly distracting. "Wonder if those shoes are real...Could you really outlive a bear attack like that...Wonder what the rate of infection is for a grizzly attack like this..." and of course "Jeez, wouldn't that kill you?....Wouldn't THAT kill you?...Okay, seriously, how is he not dead yet..."

The other thing that bothered me, and maybe this is just my foolish, outdated desire for everything to be black and white, is that I wasn't vehemently rooting for Glass.


So for those who have seen the movie, you know that Glass's son is murdered by Fitzgerald. The movie suggests that there is an ulterior motive for this happening. However, I couldn't stop thinking that, when you take into account everything that happens before this, his actions are understandable, though they may be the result of extreme paranoia and racism. It's not as though he was out to murder the kid for sport. Half of his scalp is missing, for God's sake. If we're to notice this, we can then take Fitzgerald to be a die-hard survivalist in a land where there's no honor and no rules. While it is of course despicable to murder another human being, looking at the way these guys live their lives, I would consider a teenager shouting at the top of his lungs to be a huge liability, and especially after seeing 35 of my colleagues murdered I might make an impulse decision as well (okay probably not murder, but who knows, I've never been a white guy in 1820s America before). While Glass's survival is still incredible, it makes the ending scene a little more thought-provoking. Maybe that's why they decided to make Glass shove Fitzgerald downstream in the way that they did.



The other thing that has been bugging me is why THIS is being tagged as Leo's Academy Award-winning performance. I would've much rather seen him get nominated for Shutter Island or Inception or a movie where he gets to show a little more depth of emotion and character. Are there scenes in this where he does that? Absolutely. Are they overshadowed by his eating of a raw buffalo liver or whatever? In this critic's eyes, yes. 

7 outa 10. Is The Revenant a good movie? Yes. Was it my kind of movie? Not really. Lack of dialogue and gruesome violence were a turn-off for me -- though it must be said that it's all incredibly well done.


  1. I think you're spot on about why they chose to end it like that. I just took Fitzgerald as a bitter, racist fuck. Though if I got half way scalped, I'd be a bitter bitch too.

    Great review. I really enjoyed the movie. I knew a bit about Glass and what happened before hand, but they changed so much stuff that it really didn't matter. If anything, it surprised me more because I was like "Oh, that guy isn't going to die, he lived."

    Nope. lol

  2. Good review. I thought this film was visually astonishing, but I just wish it had been a bit shorter.

    - Zach

    1. Yeah that's a long-standing criticism I have of most films. Thanks for reading!

  3. So, I avoided chunks of this review...and then Britt's comment made turn my head because I didn't want to know that!!!


    But anyways, I'm really looking forward to this for all the obvious reasons, but I'm also weary for all the reasons I keep reading about.