As we all know The Revenant was the movie that finally broke Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar curse. Seeing as I’ve not seen any of the competition in that category, I can neither confirm nor deny that he deserved it, but I’m not here to tell you if the Academy was right or not. I’m here to tell you if you should spend about twenty of your hard earned dollars on this triple Oscar winner. Personally, I would not have; I am a huge history buff and have been around Western Americana lore and history for my entire life. My father fell in love with that era when he was younger and taught me much of the history of the Wild West. He took me to ghost towns, Lincoln County, Tombstone, Custer Battlefield and on and on. The historical inaccuracies in this movie bothered me to a point where it took me out of the story time and time again. For someone who isn’t as adept in Western Americana, I can recommend this film to you as you will be engrossed by the gorgeous visuals, the top notch acting and the moving albeit not factual story.
Hugh Glass’ tale is a tall one indeed and The Revenant attempts to follow it, however the script takes some huge missteps along the way. This is his tale as the movie tells it. Glass and his compatriots are ambushed while hunting for Beaver pelts. Thirty-five men are killed in the Native American raid, Glass, Fitzgerald and Hawk (Glass’s son) safely make it to the boat and sail away from the Native Americans. They ditch the boat and pelts at Glass’s behest and begin the long hike back to the fort. Snow is constantly buzzing around them, and they try in vain to stay warm and ahead of the Native American pursuers. Glass goes out to scout ahead where he encounters two bear cubs, and unfortunately a mad mama bear. The mauling of Glass lasts about ten minutes and isn’t for the faint of heart. Found by his men, Glass is stitched back up and is now a heavy burden for all those around him. Ultimately he is left with Fitzgerald, Bridger and Hawk; Fitzgerald, scared of the imminent Native American threat, kills Hawk and tricks Bridger into leaving Glass in a shallow grave. Glass eventually frees himself and the age old tale of revenge is told once again on the big screen.
This is what the movie got wrong, Hugh Glass never had a son to kill; there was no Hawk and John Fitzgerald was never a murderer. Fitzgerald and Bridger did leave Glass in the woods to die and Glass followed them around America for revenge, but none of that ended in murder either. Eventually Glass wound up at Fort Atkinson, but his journey, while harrowing, wasn’t as bad as depicted in the movie. Winter and its freezing chill follows Glass throughout the film, but the actual bear attack was in August of 1823; snow wasn’t really an issue then. At the fort, Glass confronted Bridger, who in the throws of guilt, saw Glass advancing on the fort as a revanant, otherwise known as a ghost, hence the reason for the movie’s name. After a solid thrashing, Glass eventually forgave Bridger seeing as he was manipulated to leave. The confrontation with Fitzgerald as not as epic either, authorities in the Fort let Glass know that he would hang should any harm come to Fitzgerald. Glass retrieves his rifle and some coin that was collected for him and sent on his way. Reality being once again a tad more boring than the sensationalized story that was put to screen.
The movie is one that is done quite well. Every actor bore deep into their role, and I never saw anyone panning for the scene or not deliver a heartfelt line. Tom Hardy is exceptional as John Fitzgerald; he plays the trapper on the run to a T. Hugh Glass’s character is also brought to life quite convincingly by the recent Oscar winner. What thrilled me alongside the performances were the shots of the wilderness that director Alejandro G. Iñárritu brought into my home. I have been lucky enough to have visited Yellowstone National Park, The Black Hills, The Grand Tetons; many of our nation’s most beautiful national monuments. Shots in this film rivaled the real life beauty that I saw with my young eyes. The movie kept me cold throughout its entirety, and I’m pretty sure it was about 80 degrees when I watched it; that truly is an amazing feat. I was, however, disheartened to see in that credits that some of the film had been filmed in Argentina; I’m sure costs or personal preference landed them in South America, but it took away more authenticity to the story.
I thoroughly enjoyed how the director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu brought the barren wilderness into my living room. Early America looked as if it had not yet been touched by all of the settlers, and later the rest of the migration. The water looked pure and crisp, the wilderness looked touched only by the animals and so on. I don’t believe there is another movie out there that made me feel as if I was in the wilderness in the 1800’s. He drew out the emotions of isolation, danger, cold and brought to life the unforgiving force that Mother Nature truly is. Hats off to Iñárritu for successfully putting me into the barren wilderness where I most likely would never survive. I enjoyed my trip there, but am thankful it was only a trip, and not an extended stay.
Unfortunately, the movie is the only great piece to be included in this Blu Ray release. The case is pretty classy; it has DiCaprio’s visage on it, and you can open the slip-case and see all the praises from the reviewers. Included in this Blu-ray release is the documentary A World Unseen that attempts to link life in 1823 to life in 2016, unsuccessfully I might add. I was hoping that the documentary would shed light on how the bear scene was shot, who manufactured the muskets, some background history on the real Hugh Glass and so on. Instead, I was shown the mind’s eye of the director and how he included Glass’ offspring to make the take of revenge more emotional than just going back for one’s man musket. I understand that in Hollywood, you have to tell a story, but why even name the characters actual people? This movie would have done just as well with fictional names; I probably would have enjoyed it more.
The opening scene in this movie almost rivals Saving Private Ryan in epic scope and graphic nature. I was cringing and wincing as I watched the skirmish take place. My mind told me that I was in for some violent awesomeness but sadly my mind was wrong. The action packed opening and climax of the movie bookend a very long Bear Grylls impersonation by Leonardo DiCaprio. While the movie is gorgeous and engaging, I drifted back to thinking I was watching Man vs Wild and snickered during intense and life saving scenes. My time with this movie was enjoyable, even though I kept getting pulled out of the film by the flimsy research on the part of the screenwriters. There were two separate occasions when Glass mentioned the Texas Rangers – no not the baseball team – and in 1823 when this story took place, Texas was still a part of Mexico. That would make it very difficult for Glass’ father to have Texas Ranger friends, seeing as they didn’t exist yet. I digress, if you want to watch a survival movie where a man is pushed to his limits, and you don’t mind Hollywood’s rewrites of our history, then this is the Blu-ray for you.
A Blu-ray copy of The Revenant was provided to us by 20th Century Fox for the purpose of this review.