Today I finally saw The Revenant, the incredible story of survival and determination directed by the director of last year's Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Alejandro G. Inarritu (sorry I can't find my tilde). The Revenant reaped the bonanza of nominations for the upcoming Academy Awards.
Leonardo diCaprio, the star of the film has already taken both a Golden Globe and the British Academy Award for his portrayal of Hugh Glass. He's the odds-on favorite to receive the Oscar next weekend.
Tom Hardy as his nemesis, the evil Fitzgerald, is nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
This is a film with a huge scope, lots of long panoramic shots of the frozen mountains at all hours of the day and night. There are also shots of raging rapids on rivers too swift to freeze. The actors' breath is usually visible even in the indoor scenes, it's so cold...
Basically, the story is this, Glass (diCaprio) with his half-Pawnee son, leads a group of trappers for a fur company through the mountains. Cree Indians attack their camp because they are stealing the animals, taking the hides, and some of the meat that would sustain the tribes throughout the winter. Thirty-two of the trappers are killed before the rest escape to their riverboat with some of the pelts. As they go down the river in safety, an argument ensues. Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a thoroughly disagreeable man, who I am sorry to say, keeps talking about going back home to Texas, thinks they should continue in the boat on the river to escape the Pawnee.
Glass insists they put the boat ashore while they unload, stash the hides where they can find them, and go back overland to the fort. The captain of the expedition agrees with Glass but Fitzgerald continues to argue for the boat.
They disembark and haul the pelts up on the side of a mountain where they hide them. Glass continues to lead the men. One morning he is scouting ahead when he sees bear cubs apparently alone. He knows better than that...sure enough Mama Grizzly scents and sees him, attacking him immediately. It is a horrible, bloody scene. But I have to say the mechanical or CGI bear was very well done. Glass gets in a few good stabs with his knife and the bear ends up dying on top of him. Not a situation I would care to experience...
He is badly mauled, near death when the men find him. The captain insists they build a travois to drag him with them. Fitzgerald keeps complaining about having to drag him along and talks the captain into leaving Glass. The captain decides to leave two men who he will pay extra money if they promise to stay with Glass until he dies and his son. I think the captain must have been too cold to think straight because he lets Fitzgerald stay with the youngest man in the expedition to help the son care for Glass...Not a good decision any way you look at it.
Eventually Fitzgerald decides he's had enough babysitting and plans to leave Glass for dead. Hawk, Glass' son fights him and he kills the teenager, hiding the body. He tells the young man with him that Hawk ran away. He convinces the kid there are Pawnee down by the water and they need to leave as Glass is "practically dead."
Fitzgerald partially buries the gravely injured Glass and drags the younger man away with him. Glass manages to crawl to where the body of his son lies, and thus the story really begins...And you thought this was the whole story, didn't you? Nope, this is just the set-up.
Glass embarks on a dangerous journey of vengeance in which he literally comes back from the dead to avenge his son.
It is an amazing spiritual journey in which he is guided by his late wife's spirit and finally his son's. The Revenant is a stark poetic tale of native American legend and spirituality. The shots of the landscape, the animals, the authentic regalia of the Pawnee, remind me of Dances With Wolves, with even darker overtones.
Glass will let nothing stop him, even subsequent injuries. But he learns a surprising lesson at the end.
It's a long film, 156 minutes worth, but it grabs your attention and keeps you spellbound.
There are certain shots that took my breath away, such as the pyramid of buffalo skulls with pelts scattered around it as a French soldier smiles beside the carnage.
You need to be in the right mood to see this one, but it's well worth it. Good performances by all the cast members.
Is it the best picture I've seen of the nominees? Yes, I believe it is...
Until next time...