The Revenant (2015)

  • Time: 156 min
  • Genre: Adventure | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter


Inspired by true events, The Revenant captures one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption.


  • It happens some thirty minutes into the film. The bear attack, though attack seems too weak a description for the savage mauling inflicted upon Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass. Flesh is clawed, bitten into and torn off. Glass’ body is mercilessly thrashed and thrown about. The bear wanders off now and again, only to return, sniff at and drool upon her victim, pawing at him as if he were mere plaything. The sequence lasts for a few minutes, but it feels like a lifetime. Delivered in a single, unrelenting shot, it contains an extraordinary execution of naturalistic CGI and practical effects, and its visceral and emotional impact is nothing short of devastating.

    The Revenant, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s follow-up to his Best Picture Oscar winner, Birdman, brims with such brutalities. Set in the early 1800s in a hostile and unforgiving land, the film focuses on a group of trappers working for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. The men are busy cleaning and packing up their haul when they suddenly find themselves raided by the Arikara Indian tribe. Surrounded on all sides, they grab what they can of the pelts and make their way to their ship. The panic and confusion, the unending rainfall of arrows, not to mention the brute force of skin being pierced by bullets or scalped by knives, is all too vividly captured.

    The raid establishes the degree of barbaric realism that dominates the film’s time period; its aftermath lays the groundwork for the personal conflicts that will drive much of the narrative. Their ranks decimated, Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) must now decide the best route to return to the company’s base of operation. Glass, as the expedition’s head tracker, recommends ditching the ship, hiding the pelts and finding a path that will get them to their destination without placing them in further harm. Henry is respectful of Glass’s knowledge of the territory as Glass is a white man who married a Pawnee woman (Grace Dove). John Fitzgerald (DiCaprio’s Inception co-star, Tom Hardy), on the other hand, is not so trusting. He believes leaving the pelts behind is a terrible idea – he didn’t spend months working only to endanger his pay. And, perhaps most importantly, the man who bears the scars of a scalping, doesn’t trust a man who once lived amongst the so-called savages and learned their ways.

    Fitzgerald’s mercenary and ruthless nature become a looming threat once Henry and the group find Glass, who is nearly lifeless after the bear attack. Glass can barely move or speak (his throat was gashed), and he is but two breaths away from certain death, but the honourable Henry insists that Glass not be left behind. When the difficulty of carrying Glass’ body over the rocky, snow-covered terrain becomes impossible to ignore, Henry decides that the majority of the group will move forward whilst Fitzgerald, young Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), and Glass’ half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), will remain with Glass to bestow upon him a proper burial when he dies.

    Henry and the group are hardly out of sight before Fitzgerald’s true colours are unleashed. He kills Hawk in full view of the anguished Glass, lies to the naive Jim about an imminent Indian attack, and convinces him to ditch Glass in a shallow grave and leave. Fueled by a desire to avenge his son’s death, Glass manages to claw his way out of the dirt, crawl across the harsh land, scavenge for food and water, take shelter where he can (including the hollowed out belly of a newly dead horse), and stay alive long enough for his wounds to heal so he can hunt down his son’s killer.

    To say that DiCaprio suffers mightily is an understatement. This is undoubtedly the most physically grueling performance of his career but, that aside, it is also the most emotionally taxing. Stripped of speech, he can only express his character’s internal journey through a series of grunts and laboured exhalations of breath. His eyes convey volcanoes of pain and rage; there are times when one fears for the actor’s mental state, so completely and wrenchingly does he inhabit Glass.

    The Revenant may nod to the visual poetry of Terrence Malick’s films and the stark clarity of Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller, but its prime dealings are not for the faint of heart. In addition to the Arikara incursion and the grizzly attack, there is a no-holds-barred showdown between Glass and Fitzgerald as well as a breathtaking, did-that-just-happen shot of a horse going over a cliff. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki once again achieves spellbinding work, often filming the action in long, unbroken takes and getting so close as to see the whites of the actors’ eyes…and the blood splatter and the breath fog the lens. These moments that break the fourth wall are an interesting touch, if only because Iñárritu is so meticulous a director that one wonders if these were deliberate or “accidents” left in due to budgetary or time constraints. One moment is surely intended – DiCaprio stares down the lens, searing viewers with the intensity of all that he has endured.

    At a sprawling 2 hours and 36 minutes, The Revenant can be indulgent, perhaps ceaselessly unflinching in its horrors, and simplistic in its characterisations, especially those of Native Americans. Yet its power cannot be denied. Glass’ tale served as loose basis for the 1971 film Man in the Wilderness, but its re-telling in The Revenant is closer in spirit to 1972’s Jeremiah Johnson, which is a symphony of rhythm and moods navigated by solitary figures. The chords may be more ferocious, but The Revenant nevertheless sings a compelling tune of survival, vengeance, forgiveness, and feral beauty.

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  • Call it what you want, but there is no bear rape scene.

    Whether it was just a PR campaign to hall in more seats to see the film or someone attempting to make one horrible joke, none of it reflected in what The Revenant is about: a western thriller whose inspirational story reflects on people’s fascination with human instinct, endurance, and the fear of death.

    During the 1820s, explorer and frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo Dicaprio), is helping other Americans get through the unchartered territories as they collect pelts, but are soon attacked by natives, whose leader is in search of his daughter. As they escape the terrain, Glass is furiously mauled by a wild bear. With a couple of hunters left in charge of caring for him, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), not only stabs Glass’ son to death in front of him, but buries him alive, leaving him for dead.

    When focused on Glass’ journey, The Revenant is a tracking shot of his life coming back from a near fatal attack, making his experiences appear as realistic as possible. It is 2013’s Gravity with a western taste, with Glass’ journey ultimately leading him to seek revenge for Tom Hardy leaving him for dead and nearly burying him alive. This film isn’t dialogue heavy (if you want a western with dialogue, see The Hateful 8), and it doesn’t have to be. Just as how nerve wracking it was to see Sandra Bullock find her way back to Earth through outer space, The Revenant focuses on the loneliness in the Montana backwoods.

    The Revenant reminds us the grittiness of mankind, and how instinct and the will to survive triumphs any form of wickedness and betrayal. Daunting, fresh, and inspiring, Leonardo DiCaprio performance does provide mostly grunts and facial expressions bewildered with pain, but convinces us how animalistic the human being can turn in this situation. One’s fear of death exponentially decays after each encounter with death Glass goes through, as the long shots make us a silent guide, studying Glass and his journey. The conclusion between the two sticks to its western roots, making this game of cat and mouse one to remember.

    If Birdman was Alejandro Iñárritu channeling his life into cinema, then all signs show he is doing it again. The Revenant pushes our hero, a reliable frontiersman, into fight or flight mode, mustering all his strength and previous experiences to survive yet another day. Alejandro Iñárritu will live on for another year with his work for The Revenant, and we can only help cinematic experiences such as this survive by going into fight or flight by going through this experience with him.

  • (Rating: ☆☆☆ out of 4)

    This film is recommended.

    In brief: Some action scenes do impress, but the filmgoing experience becomes more arduous than needed.
    GRADE: B

    Vengance is a sweet and powerful impulse that keeps our protagonist alive in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s sprawling Western saga, The Revenant. Based on a true account of frontiersman Hugh Glass (a superb Leonardo DiCaprio), the film shows his violent journey homeward. Faced with natural obstacles, man-made treachery, Native American hostilities, and a horrifying bear attack, our pioneer fights for his life every moment on his trek through the wilderness. Left for dead by members in his hunting party, his grueling endurance test becomes one for the moviegoer as well as we face hardship after hardship in bloody realistic fashion.

    The onslaught may not make for comfortable viewing, but the artistry and virtuoso filmmaking on display is exhilarating to behold, even if the screenplay by the director and Mark L. Smith is one long series of strung together perils with not much in the way of strong character development (other than Glass himself), memorable dialog, or detailed plotting. The story itself is a typical survival tale, rote and predictable, with more than a touch of Terrance Mallick’s inspiration and spiritualism thrown in with some cloying (but lovely) ethereal dreamscapes and hallucinations marring the action. Also, the film takes some liberties with the historical facts, especially in the fictional climax of the film.

    But the artistry by the director, actors, and behind-the-scenes crew is remarkable in their achievements and dedication. Iñárritu is a visionary director, setting up the many action sequences and positioning his actors to get the maximum effect from his unique point of view. (The actual making of this film must have been demanding with his on-location filming in the mountainous regions of Canada.) Shot under frigid conditions, the film has an authenticity that makes the movie all the more riveting with images that truly astound and leave one gaping at its brutality and beauty. The film is a visceral experience but it never touches the mind or heart. It is technically astute and emotionally aloof. (One false note, literally: The dissonant music by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and Bryce Dessner, which has a mysterious and haunting quality, tends to telegraph the ominous approaching danger the minute any chord is sounded.)

    Still, one cannot gush enough about the glorious panoramic wintry vistas and fluid camerawork of the gifted Emmanuel Lubezki. His wide angle shots and striking close-ups are exceptional as is the brilliant editing by Steven Mirrione. The moviegoing audience is placed directly in the line of fire as arrows fly, bullets whiz by, and blood flows. Whenever the action starts, we are swept away into its powerful spell.

    Mr. DiCaprio gives a consummate performance as Glass. The role is nuanced, mostly silent and intrinsic in its character, as this man battles his way suffering one misfortune after another. The misery shows in the actor’s facial expressions and stance most effectively. This physically demanding role should send many awards his way as compensation. Providing strong support are Tom Hardy as his rival, Fitzgerald, and Domhnall Gleeson as his dutiful friend.

    While not for those who have a low tolerance of pain and violence, The Revenant is must-see viewing for any serious filmgoer for its technical expertise and the fully committed performance by Mr. Dicaprio. The awe and wander is there, just not the necessary wonder.

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  • Leonardo DiCaprio was good enough to win an Oscar playing Howard Hughes (from The Aviator), coked-up stock broker Jordan Belfort (from The Wolf of Wall Street), and foreign gunrunner Danny Archer (from Blood Diamond). The Academy felt otherwise. Now it seems he is the undeniable favorite to win Best Actor for 2015’s The Revenant (my latest review). I call it a sympathy vote. Academy voters have been blackballing Leo over for over 20 years so I guess they’re calling it truce and just handing him the golden statuette. His performance in “Revenant” is a solid dose physical acting (with few words) but I don’t think it’s his best work. He claws, he moans, he bleeds, he aches, and he ultimately suffers. I suppose that’s good enough to take home the prize at this juncture.

    Anyway, DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a hunter venturing from wintry South Dakota to Big Sky Montana (circa 1823). He gets mauled by a bear, his son gets unjustly murdered by his party’s frontiersman, and because of his bloodied condition, he mistakingly is left for dead by his military peers. Barely alive, Glass goes on a long journey to find the vigilant who took his boy from him. Leo’s character gets put through the wringer as he gets shot at by arrows, goes down a waterfall in icy waters, sleeps inside a gutless horse, and eats the raw carcasses of slain bison. Chameleon Tom Hardy (brilliantly) plays Hugh’s antagonistic foe, Forrest Goodluck plays his native American son, and Domhnall Gleeson (About Time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) plays his captain, Andrew Henry. In veracity, I took in The Revenant’s mostly brisk, 2 hour and 36 minute running time and was reminded of a more foreseeable version of 2013’s Snowpiercer. Granted, this is minus the futuristic elements and train ride vibeology.

    Now if you haven’t seen the trailer to The Revenant, I implore you that it literally gives the whole movie away. Sacrilege! And if you go into this winter release without hearing any early advance about it, you’ll still find things pretty darn predictable. No matter. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu takes a straight ahead and straightforward revenge thriller and injects it with his brilliant direction. He gives his main lead a series of feverish dreams and hallucinatory flashbacks to stew upon. He also combines the dirty, the violent, the bilious, and undercuts “Revenant” with sights/sounds of swallowed up nature. You can tell he uses his own style but hey, why not steal a little from his buddies too. There’s a small bit of Terrence Malick going on here (stills of trees and animals) and residue courtesy of Alfonso Cuaron to boot (camera near the actor’s faces with long takes happening all around them). And despite the film never sustaining the power of its opening battle sequence (between a tribe called Arikara and Henry’s hunting party), you’re still entertained while being drawn along with Emmanuel Lubezki’s brilliant cinematography plus a harrowing musical score by three different composers (Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai, Ryuichi Sakamoto). Rating: 3 stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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  • Like the classic Western, The Revenant examines the thin line between savagery and civilization, as played out in the white man’s ambivalent conquest of the native American. The central clash is between two white survivors, Hugh Glass and John Fitzgerald.
    Both men have their proteges, son Hawk and cadet Bridger respectively. Hawk soars but Bridger follows the wrong orders, imperilling his life and soul.
    Glass bridges both cultures, having lived among the Pawnee, learned their language and values, having lost a Pawnee wife and now caring for and avenging the death of his son Hawk.
    Glass lives with the spirit of his slaughtered wife and in the last shot appears to rejoin her in the spirit world. Indeed the title may connote dreamer and avenger but it literally means a returning spirit. As he says before his last mission, “I ain’t afraid to die anymore. I’d done it already.” Hawk says to the moribund Glass, then Glass says to dead Hawk what he said to his dead wife: “I’m right here. You hear me?” The spirits are there to address. This rebuts Fitzgerald’s last remark: “You came all this way just for your revenge, huh? Did you enjoy it, Glass?… ‘Cause there ain’t nothin’ gon’ bring your boy back.”
    Fitzgerald survived a scalping. When he meets his ultimate end it’s not directly at Glass’s hand but by nature. The Pawnee consign him to the rushing river.
    Fitzgerald is reduced to the material. He’s greedy, murderous, dishonourable in every way. He has no moral sense. In his theology God is a squirrel you can shoot and eat.
    For Glass and the natives nature is a far larger spirit than an edible squirrel. That’s the point of the powerful images of the landscape, Kananaskis (aka the suburbs of Calgary). God is in the land, either as a harsh test or as an enabling spirit. When Glass pulls himself out of the gutted horse he overnighted inside, he pats a respectful salute before moving on.
    The central metaphor is what Glass learned from his wife: “As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe. Keep breathing. When there is a storm. And you stand in front of a tree. If you look at its branches, you swear it will fall. But if you watch the trunk, you will see its stability.“ Time and again Glass saves himself or is saved by deploying the twigs and trunks around him. When he rides off a cliff a tall tree breaks his fall. In contrast, the French hang his Pawnee friend from a tree, a summary if not an emblem of European civilization. The Pawnee serve the nature the ostensibly “civilized” exploit.
    Both the white and the native sides are mixed. Civilization is undercut by the army’s savagery when it eliminates Glass’s adopted tribe. As Glass warns his son, “They don’t hear your voice! They just see the color of your face. You understand? “ Even the counselled silence won’t save Hawk. Glass as rumoured did kill an officer: “I just killed a man who was trying to kill my son.”
    Captain Andrew Henry is a man of honour and integrity, proved by his confrontation of Fitzgerald. But his company shows a moral blind spot when its workers end up owing the company for their expenses on a thwarted hunt for pelts.
    There is also savagery among the natives, as the Sioux try to wipe out the Pawnee. But the one native’s pursuit of his daughter, abducted and raped by the French, and the succour Glass gets from another isolated Pawnee put them on the honourable side.
    As usual this historic drama is about the time it is made as well as the time in which it is set. Star DiCaprio makes its pertinence clear when he speaks out against the threat of the oil sands and pipelines to the natural preserve and our continuing neglect of native rights.

  • “As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe… keep breathing.”

    God giveth, God taketh away. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu wants you to know that, and he’ll give you a 2.5 hour exploration of Leonardo Dicaprio’s endurance to prove it.

    While it’s undeniably beautiful to behold on screen, and the passion of the Leo is as unbearable to watch as it is to believe, The Revenant’s (its title referring to someone returning from the dead) uninspired script left me wanting something deeper than a hollow man vs. man and man vs. nature epic. There just isn’t enough meat to chew on here or at least enough for me to really care about.

    Screenwriter and director Alejandro González Iñárritu gave us Babel, Biutiful and last year’s Academy Award winner, Birdman. He co-wrote this loose adaptation of Michael Punke’s 2002 historical novel The Revenant with Mark L. Smith. The story’s set in 1823, focusing on a true-life character, frontiersman and tracker Hugh Glass.

    Based on true events is always an enticing grab in trailers, and survivalist Hugh Glass is a great example of American resilience. Likewise, bearing the icy frozen rivers, sleeping in animal carcasses and eating raw bison liver on a regular basis (Yes, he did, folks), I guess we can say Leonardo DiCaprio has become a symbol of Hollywood film-making resilience, and the feats actors will undergo to make a movie as real as possible.

    I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t floored by the visual feast Inarritu and his long-time cinematographer achieved on screen. The Revenant was photographed by the remarkable Emmanuel Lubezki, who fully deserved his back-to-back Oscars for his work on Gravity and Birdman. He’s the master of capturing the raw beauty of natural lighting. The first half of the movie, especially the opening sequence, was gripping. Then, as Leonardo DiCaprio crawls across miles and miles of that surreal scenery filmed in Canada, Montana and Argentina, and it kind of just implodes into nothing much else.

    For a film that erupted in it’s first trailer as something truly visionary, why couldn’t Inarritu give us meatier characters? The true MVP of the film is Tom Hardy whose character begs us to ask more questions and want to know more. His ferocity gives us more emotion toward what’s happening on screen than Leo’s character could ever elicit. For me, this wasn’t Leo’s best performance; maybe his best physical performance, but it’s hard to give a damn about his character because of what he lacks in substance. We’re given a few snippets of flashbacks of love lost, family lost, ultimate misery from the character’s past, but not enough connection to really feel the torture of what Glass is going through outside of seeing it through the physical brutality of nature.

    This movie will certainly come ringing during Oscar season, but as The Skinny words it: “In the final stretches of the film we are supposed to feel the presence of God, but as DiCaprio’s desperate breathing fogs up the camera, we only feel the presence of the director. For Alejandro González Iñárritu, maybe that amounts to the same thing.

  • “I ain’t afraid to die anymore. I’d done it already.”

    You have movies with bloody scenes so exaggerated that it actually becomes laughable. Take for example “The hateful Eight”. Liters of blood spatter around in this film. It’s not really meant to be funny but it isn’t shocking either after a while. The key moment in “The Revenant” however, is so incredibly realistic and bloody painful to behold. A dashing exploit of CGI and choreography. The interplay between DiCaprio and the computer animated bear had to be meticulously coordinated. I think this required some scrupulous work, resulting in an impressive battle scene. Had it been a real-life, trained bear, I’d give this bear an Oscar.

    Now Leonardo DiCaprio snatched the coveted statuette away from the bear. In my opinion Leo deserved it, but not specifically for this film. I have no doubt that the circumstances this film was made in, must have been heavy and mostly inhuman. The extreme cold in the icy landscape over there in the far north and the difficult primitive conditions of life for these trappers weren’t faked images. But for DiCaprio there wasn’t much acting involved during the largest part of the film. Mostly it was just groaning with a lot of splashing spittle. Although he did this in a very convincing way. His facial expression showed his feelings. No need for heaps of words. So he’s not a chatterbox as in “The Wolf of Wall Street”. That’s the movie he deserved an Oscar for, in my opinion.

    “The Revenant” is the ultimate survival film. A brilliant film about the struggle between man and nature. A beautiful film, full of fascinating images, that slowly takes the form of a revenge movie. The revenge Hugh Glass wants, is the thread running through this film. A film about a profound willpower and perseverance. A survival film that easily surpasses essentially all other similar films. The scene with the horse is pretty hallucinating and a pinnacle of inventiveness when it comes to survival skills. This film being based on a true story, makes it all the more impressive. In my opinion this film can be added to the list of other legendary films.

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  • I won’t go into much of the film’s plot but I’ll keep it brief; inspired around the famous Hugh Glass (who has been labelled as history’s toughest survivor) it tells his deep and yet engaging adventure that see’s him fighting not only for himself but his quest for justice when he is left for dead by an emotionless, careless and even cowardly member of his crew.

    What makes The Revenant so amazing is that it’s directed by both award winning and critically acclaimed filmmaker Alejandro G Inarritu with his style of storytelling, themes and character that make the silver screen shine. There is so much to take away and grip from this so I’ll try to give my best of it all without spoiling it for you; firstly the film’s themes include ‘Survival of the human spirit’, ‘revenge’ ‘God and spirituality’ and they help to keep the audience not only intrigued to the plot but the way the characters are seen from our eyes. Importantly, with Leo’s character (Hugh Glass) we are shown that he’s not only a tough human but he’s battling his own demons that push him to be as strong yet broken in his path for revenge. Leo has played many great roles in his acting career but I think that this role is his best and truly toughest to play, it’s bound to get him award nominations again as like other years but this is indeed something that the Oscars should deeply consider for him to receive. Tom Hardy is fantastic as well; his character is truly a monster that is emotionless, heartless and really driven for the audience to despise.

    Cinematography was outstanding throughout and the locations where the film takes place are 100% real and really captures the realism of the story’s setting from wet forests, raging rivers, snowy mountains and isolated trails. So much detail and thought has been put into this and the efforts from both the cast and the crew behind the camera make it seem so believably strong. Sound mixing and editing is strong too, with sounds of birds, winds and even breathing that makes it sound so beautiful but it’s is composed soundtrack that makes it seem so emotional and yet captivating, from Glass’s visions to even seeing him survive the harsh environment make these worthy candidates for Oscars and further awards in technical achievement in film. Again, we see camera shots that seem a ‘one shot take’ and even in one sequence we switch from one character to another. The violence is brutal, bloody and well executed and it can be confronting for some.

    Overall, The Renevant is a breathtaking, captivating, and brutal but beautifully shot film that has so much to grasp but it will take an open mind to get it’s themes and character development. Fantastic film!

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