Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy go toe to toe in this stunning film from Academy Award Winning Director Alejandro González Iñárritu “Inspired by actual events”.
The primary event inspiring this narrative being the near fatal mauling of 19th Century American Frontiersman Hugh Glass by a grizzly bear in South Dakota in August 1823, previously told on film in 1971’s Man in the Wilderness, starring Richard Harris.
DiCaprio stars this time around, as Glass, one man in an ill-fated expedition that comes under attack not only from wild animals, but also Indians, the elements and each other, when men turn on one another as they fight for survival in the desolate wilderness.
Shot in Montana, California, Argentina, and Fortress Mountain Resort British Columbia, Iñárritu insisted on recreating conditions as faithfully as possible, and uses only natural light to incredible effect.
The opening battle scene between the fur trappers of Glass’s party, and a fierce tribe of Indians felt so real that I expected arrows to come flying out of the screen and into the audience.
As this breathtaking sequence unfolded, I knew this would be a film that I will see again at the first available opportunity.
I watched it on the Fox lot in Los Angeles, a day before meeting Historian and Mountain Man Clay Landry, the film’s period advisor who coached the actors on fighting weapons and methods, survival skills and general badassery.
DiCaprio is sensational as the mortally wounded Glass, left behind after the bear attack by his Captain, Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), under the watchful eye of a young man Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) and (the utterly compelling Tom Hardy as) a criminal John Fitzgerald, who stay with Glass as he struggles to stay alive.
Fitzgerald’s actions once he is left as guardian puts Glass in peril, and revenge was what partly motivated Glass to crawl back to civilisation several hundred miles away over six agonising weeks through some of the harshest terrain on the planet.
The Revenant is Bloodthirsty, Brutal and Brilliant.
This updated version of events offers a different interpretation, with many of the same ingredients that will be familiar to fans of the 1971 film.
A bible left by Bridger with Glass is represented by a water flask with an eternity symbol on it.
Glass is the father of a Pawnee Indian boy, another crucial motivating factor in his will to live.
Left half buried in a shallow grave, his rifle taken from him, along with all items that may have offered any assistance in his bid to reach safety, DiCaprio cuts a searing figure, in a role that is up there with his best ever efforts including The Aviator and The Departed.
The actor insisted on reenacting events as authentically wherever possible, including catching and eating raw fish, biting into raw Bison liver and swimming in freezing rivers and streams.
The film poses the obvious question of whether nature is an adversary or an ally of men, and it’s a different answer for Europeans or Native Americans.
This narrative is more focused on the inclusion of the American Indian aspect than the 1971 film, and provides a particularly spiritual dimension with their traditions of being in harmony with the elements and creatures of the area at odds with the trappers commercial goals to skin as many critters as they could.
Iñárritu continues his track record of insanely jaw-dropping cinematography, that left me wondering how he managed a tracking shot of a horse and rider going off a cliff into a tree.
This was an era of kill or be killed, and as such it is a brutally violent film, with none of the comedy of a Tarantino story, but in some ways Iñárritu has “out-Tarantino-ed Tarantino” in his desire to present the blood-soaked reality of life on the Frontier.
History and legend spring to life in this breathtaking big screen spectacular.
Shot and scored with Precision. A riveting account of actual events.
And one you will re-watch multiple times.
4 & 1/2 Stars.