Film Reviews

THE REVENANT

By • Jan 13th, 2016 •

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It’s an army-like setting for men with a certain degree of fortitude to trap animals in the fur trade that involves working cohesively and setting up camps while constantly on the move through a rustic hellish natural setting devoid of any contemporary amenities like synthetic fibers and wearable tech. The harsh exposure to the elements in this unforgiving landscape is where man faces the prospect of enduring prolonged physical, mental, and spiritual hardship only to be struck down in murder by those who have suffered injustice and insult by the marauding man from across the Atlantic.

Leonardo DiCaprio is Hugh Glass, a character who possesses an inordinate amount of strength to survive a bear’s flesh-shredding attack, spilling blood from the warmth of his body and pooling onto the freezing ground where he lay. A lesser man’s lifeless body would have been stumbled upon and buried. Undeterred by gaping gashes, fragmented bones, illness, and compromised respiratory function, Glass carries on, solemnly sworn to fulfill the rightful vengeance in his heart for the iniquities that he and his family have suffered. DiCaprio’s performance delivers gurgling gasps, grunting, pained laborious syllables and limited dialogue in which he conveys strong heartfelt emotions in a physically demanding performance that questions just how closely THE REVENANT came as a postmortem release.

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s THE REVENANT, beautifully shot by Emmanuel Lubezki, is deserving of a purchased theater ticket to view the panoramic natural terrain on a large screen to fully appreciate its scale and to witness the Jekyll and Hyde that is nature – the beauty and the unmasking that reveals nature’s virulent attitude towards man.

In referencing literary themes of major conflict found in the film such as man vs. man and man vs. nature, these can be applied to the production as well, as it was pitted against both man and nature. At odds, crews quit as the lengthy production was filmed outdoors in various countries subjected to extreme weather conditions. The director had his vision of authentic on-location shooting, refraining from indoor green screen. Proof of this demanding effort, all of the suffering and incurred expenses, is in the final cut worthy of multiple accolades and Oscar wins.

As Glass is pitted against nature and man, it is what befalls him and the crimes committed against his wife and son that offer commentary on the sad failure of humanity. Set back in the early 1800’s, he is faced with bigotry by his own race as the white man is bent on the eradication of the indigenous peoples. Glass’ Pawnee wife gave birth to their son who is of mixed race and warned by his father that he will only be viewed by the color of his skin. Tom Hardy is John Fitzgerald, a callous individual devoid of valor or integrity and exactly the ugly face of bigotry of whom Glass warned.

Warring tribes are as eager to kill one another equally, viciously, and without hesitation as they would the white man. Regardless of race, man is the true villain. To our downfall, man is capable of relinquishing an intrinsic barrier refraining us from committing atrocities, thus, releasing the beast within.

John Fitzgerald is as grotesque as any other in the film who pillages, torches, scalps, and rapes. Entrenched in a struggle to survive alongside the others, he is ruled by avarice and commits the brutal deed in cowardice while in the face of adversity. Standing above a begging pleading man barely bound together in his own flesh issuing him his death warrant ranks John Fitzgerald high among fantastically loathsome cinematic villains.

And on the reverse side of ugly is beauty. Set in a time of defined division when racism ruled, the masses were rained upon with manufactured bias and ignorance drowning in the maddening flood of ill will towards fellow man. Some did escape. Hugh Glass and his First Nations wife escaped. Glass’ reflections of his wife venerate an unfailing love. Unfortunately, injustice reigned in the lives of a few characters in the film who become intertwined at times. However brief, these junctions forever impacted their paths. In an ugly scenario, a simple act of kindness or boldness gave strangers a glimpse of a beauty that could exist – possibly a permanent truce between cultures (that maybe will someday come). In the scheme of hope and love we want good to conquer evil. Yet, the audience applauds the hunt for Fitzgerald knowing what will transpire. Hugh Glass’ path to vengeance was fueled by his love for his wife and son that resurrected an enervated revenant man.

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