Movie Review: The Revenant

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After surviving a bear attack and being left for dead, a man survives against all odds to seek revenge.

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Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 2015

On the American frontier, tracker Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) leads a party of fur trappers in northern Louisiana. He and his half-Native son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) are treated with suspicion and antagonism by many of the trappers, particularly John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who survived a scalping attack. However, the group’s leader, Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), values Glass’s skills and defends his position. One day, when Glass scouts ahead, he is attacked by a bear. Henry tries to ensure Glass’s safety until he dies from his wounds, leaving Fitz and Bridger (Will Poulter) but Fitz kills Hawk and abandons Glass. Driven to exact revenge on Fitz for the murder of his son, Glass survives his wounds and a series of increasingly insane situations, including several attacks, flashbacks, and a bunch of spiritual and religious visions. He travels across the country to return to the base where Fitz and Bridger struggle to reconcile the truth with the lies they’ve told.

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I’m amazed by the amount of rubbish filmmakers can heap on us if it’s shot with natural light and makes some pretentious pass at being deep and spiritual. The Revenant is a brutal, long, slow, gory film in which Leonardo DiCaprio puts himself through a lot of gross, uncomfortable situations while grunting a lot so they can call it art. Ultimately, though, it holds the same kind of appeal as a gory horror film. There is no way critics would let the Fast and Furious franchise get away with its protagonists surviving the kind of insane situations Leonardo DiCaprio survives in The Revenant without a serious dressing-down. It’s a basic revenge movie with some pretty cinematography set in beautiful, stark landscapes. It’s a hard grind that seems aimless for a large portion of its runtime, as though it has a vague idea of the aesthetic it’s going for but not much grasp of the story it’s telling. Maybe I’m just too burnt out on stories of white men surviving against all odds, but this movie wore me out so fast, and it was largely an uncomfortable viewing experience.

The film also treats women and people of colour poorly. There are only two women with speaking roles in the film, both Native American: one, Glass’s wife, is fridged before the film starts and appears to him in visions from that point on, like some magical pain fairy. The other is raped repeatedly. There’s a lot of demonisation of Native people (and also, weirdly, the movie really hates the French) – there’s one good scene where a Native leader talks about how everything was taken from them, but they’re mostly framed as unpredictable guerilla enemies, shooting to kill straight away, no matter how badly injured their lone target. They’re a shadowy menace to Glass throughout the film. Glass’s Native son, who is infinitely more interesting than Glass, is also fridged early to give Glass the motivation for his vengeance kick. Of the supporting actors, Forrest Goodluck does will with his limited role, but it’s really Tom Hardy who is the most interesting to watch. His Fitzgerald is awful but magnetic, cruel and selfish in charismatic, human ways (until the big showdown at the end, when he turns into a taunting supervillain). Two of the film’s most transcendent scenes belong to Hardy alone – one when he’s describing how it feels to be scalped, and one when he’s talking about God being a squirrel. Ultimately it’s just disappointing. Inarritu is a good filmmaker, and hopefully one day he’ll choose a subject worthy of his skills.

The Revenant on IMDb

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Revenant

  1. EXACTLY my thoughts. I couldn’t think of a word to describe the movie, I kept going to “entitled” but no, it’s “pretentious”. So thanks for that, I was looking for a word all weekend and that was it.

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