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The Revenant (2016) Review

Credit: 20th Century FOX

Written by J. Johnson

If you’ve seen the trailer, there are no spoilers coming. DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a man damaged by the loss of his wife who, along with his teen-aged son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), makes a living as a hunter and fur trader.  The year is 1823 and Glass is part of a hunting party in the wilderness of the Louisiana Purchase. Already he has problems with John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a greedy complainer and bigot who resents Hawk because he is half Indian.

Glass’s story has been told many times with various degrees of fictionalization. Fredrick Manfred’s 1954 novel Lord Grizzly was a finalist for a National Book Award. In the 1971’s Man in the Wilderness starred Richard Harris, though the pivotal scene looks in one shot as though someone has just created a cluster****!

A defining scene in the movie is when you see a line that has several meanings to it—”back from the dead”… It comes half hour into the film. You could really feel the intensity when the grizzly attacked. Being so grisly and savage it did cause a bit of shock to me. It only lasted no more than four and a half minutes, but truly felt longer than that. Put yourself in Hugh Glass’ (Leonardo DiCaprio) shoes as the character he’s playing having that misfortune to live through it yourself would be terrifying.

He’s attacked, but it’s almost suggested that something really happens, but it never happens as he chomps on some real raw bison liver in a later scene. Three men agree to watch over him until he recovers or dies. Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), Glass’s half-Pawnee son; Bridger (Will Poulter), and Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who may not have a heart at all.

You see a gorgeously photographed, spellbinding, perfectly acted story of a man who has lost everything he loved and is now powered only by bloodlust and a spiritual need for revenge is what follows. He’ll need every ounce of his strength to crawl, fall, and fight from hundreds of miles of treacherous winter terrain. In that way, the story is absolutely relentless, and you feel everything Glass does; his hunger, the cold, his aching body, and most of all his seething heartbreak and insatiable need to avenge the murder of his boy.

There are scenes where the camera sniffs and prowls around the character like a wary coyote; at one point DiCaprio even fogs up the lens as he exhales. Almost had a documentary feel to it. But even when the film’s haunting, almost subliminal score, meticulous sound design, and other elements become stronger still.

The Revenant runs for a shade over two and a half hours, yet nary a minute feels wasted. And scattered amid the more practical sense of endurance are austere images that might be dreams, portents or actual events: a forest that is also a river; a fireball, streaking through the sky liked a doomed satellite; a burned-out church, its bell improbably half-anchored in a semicolumnar spire. Such beauty almost beggars belief, even as it reminds us what cinema-as-storyteller does best. There’s no doubt why ‘The Revenant’ won two Golden Globes awards this year.

The Revenant‘ is out in theaters right now!

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