Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is out hunting with a group of people including his son when conflict comes calling In the opening scene of The Revenant. Everything changes in a matter of seconds as this hunting expedition breaks out into war. Glass hears gunfire and he knows instantly that all of them are in grave danger. He yells for his son to get to the boat. The moose they had in their sights just moments before have scattered. No trace of them remains. Swiftly the chaos reaches them, wreaking havoc all along the way.
After the dust settles, and everyone who’s going to get to the boat reaches the boat, we learn exactly what kind of man John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) can be. Not only is he mean, he’s cruel and highly financially motivated. Glass, his son, Fitzgerald, the Captain and a handful of others, float along, discussing next steps and doing their best to avoid being spotted. They're running from a band of Native Americans looking for one of their own, a woman named Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk'o). They're not to be messed with because they are quite clearly decimating anyone that stands in their path.
All of this unfolds during a time of great upheaval for the Native American people. The frontiersmen in this film (American, French and British, oh my!) are running around kidnapping, murdering and double crossing everything in sight, all the while insisting that the natives are the real savages. It must have been an awfully precarious time to be Native American, which is sad considering this was their land. The pain of that irony is felt throughout this film, and it's not always easy to watch unfold on screen.
Glass was on this failed expedition with an army of men, sent to collect pelts to be sold. He had his son with him and because Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) is half native, they attracted the ire of John Fitzgerald. Glass is the man who saw the Native folks coming toward their encampment, near the water. He spotted them while out hunting, alerted everyone else and did his best to get as many men to the boat as possible. He’s also the one who convinced Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) to ditch the boat and hoof it the rest of the way back to their settlement / outpost.
Fitzgerald doesn’t like the sound of Glass’ advice and suggests everyone stay on the boat, so they can get back faster. He thinks they’ll be safer there. Plus, he’s not digging the idea of carrying back the bundles of pelts they’d salvaged before their expedition was cut short. Despite his concerns, The Captain chooses to heed Glass’ advice and this turn of events lights Fitzgerald’s rage fire instantly.
Fitzgerald is a tough guy. He’s big, he’s scary looking and he’s got some pretty gnarly scars to prove it. He’s vicious, emotional and he doesn’t know how to trust, but he makes no apologies because this is how he learned to survive. He gets things done and he’s trusted to deliver, for a fee. And so, later on (after the bear attack scene) Captain Henry gives Fitzgerald the benefit of the doubt and entrusts him with an incapacitated Glass’ safety. Unfortunately, that naivete later costs Hawk his life.
Fitzgerald was supposed to ensure Glass’ survival. If Glass were to die—the bear attack scene was brutal—Fitz was supposed to bury him with dignity and respect. Captain Henry said Glass deserved it since he was the reason all of them were alive. Fitz knew he was right and insisted he would do as instructed, no doubt about it. Guaranteed for a fee.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you know what happens next. Fitzgerald goes full asshole, kills Glass’ kid, convinces Bridger (Will Poulter) to ditch Glass and run for the hills. Fitz tells Bridger that there are blood thirsty Natives coming for them and they needed to move now or die. Bridger reluctantly leaves Glass and regrets it every step of the way. Glass’ life was ripped from him time and again and this time, he aims to do something about it. The Revenant is the story of Glass’ redemption.
Let’s get right to it and talk about Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance. I’m unsure where the debate lies, because I’d heard both good and bad things going in. What I got was a captivating performance that tore at my insides a little. His portrayal of Hugh Glass is measured precisely. I imagine that it's easy to go overboard with all the grunting and writhing in pain this role clearly required, but DiCaprio nails it. I was writhing uncomfortably in my seat alongside him as that bear attempted to rip out his throat, and you will be too. DiCaprio's performance is earnest in its intensity and decisively executed. He’s brilliant and he’ll make you feel every last one of Glass' losses. What more could you ask for?
Tom Hardy is undeniable as John Fitzgerald. As already mentioned, he’s terrifying and his shifty eyes instill distrust from the moment you spot them. Hardy’s portrayal makes Fitzgerald fun to hate and disturbingly easy to relate to. There’s nothing good about Fitzgerald until he spits some knowledge that makes complete sense. He’ll still cut you though, because the man is a true thug. Hardy impresses once more. Lastly, Will Poulter also does one hell of a job with Bridger. He’s the bleeding heart we’ve all got tucked away in a corner of our cold, dead, black, souls. He’s wonderful and connects instantly.
Alejandro González Iñárritu (Director) delivers one hell of a beautiful film. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me on that. The Revenant is gorgeous, despite the ever-present carnage. The enormity, beauty and severity of nature are present in every shot. With a swift and biting pace, Iñárritu pieces together a breathtaking story of atonement and survival. This captivating tale will grab you a few minutes in and it will not let go until it is good and ready. Catch this one before it leaves theaters.
The Revenant (2015) - A
A = Movies this good don’t happen often and If you’re going to watch something, you should watch this. This is exactly what I go looking for when I go to the movies. I trust you’ll enjoy it if you keep an open mind.