Whoa, whoa, whoa, just calm down. Let’s not jump the gun by saying that director Alejandro González Iñárritu has the Midas touch; I’m sure there are a few miscellaneous dust particles flying around his house that have not yet turned to gold – but let’s be honest: that’s probably just because they haven’t landed on him yet. After all, he’s a busy, gold-making man since his Birdman took home two Golden Globes and four Oscars last year. 2016 is turning out to be of little difference because his latest film The Revenant has already won three Golden Globes and is nominated for twelve Oscars. Iñárritu just has a penchant for telling a good story in a good way, and this new film is no exception.
The story isn’t that complex, either. A group of fur tradesmen is ambushed by a group of Native Americans in the 1800’s American frontier. Iñárritu portrays the two groups as both equally noble and equally vicious, and with all things being equal, it’s difficult to be upset by either group’s actions no matter how wicked they are. Both sides fight for what they think is right, and both sides commit the same sins in trying to get what’s theirs faster. Add to that the story of a betrayed man left for dead and looking for revenge, and you’ve got the engine that drives this story along.
FCC’s very own Leonardo DiCaprio as frontiersman/pathfinder Hugh Glass is our endearing protagonist. and his performance is nothing short of majestic. To stay morally upright in a world descending into depravity is his super-objective, and we as the audience can read it on his face the entire time. Tom Hardy’s portrayal of fellow explorer John Fitzgerald is also up to par, although the character is the quintessential antagonist. Fitzgerald is commissioned to covering up his dirty little secret for the majority of the film, proving that the best villains don’t have to be mentally unstable or physically unstoppable, just crafty enough to get by. Shout outs also to Domnhall Gleeson as Captain Andrew Henry, the leader of the expedition who tries to do right by everybody, and Will Poulter as Bridger, the new kid on the block who doesn’t know what to think of this brave, new world.
Iñárritu’s handling of the camera is masterful once again. Some of the most powerful shots are like microscopes on the actors’ faces, highlighting every strain of emotion and intensity. Other shots pan out for miles in a way akin to the paintings of the Hudson River School, an art movement of the time in which artists would paint vast landscapes – generally of the Hudson River area, hence the name. Like these huge canvas paintings featuring only a small human in a nondescript section, Iñárritu shows the frozen American wilderness in its vastness and wonder with the small dot of an actor walking through it.
The Christian Angle: Revenge is in the Hands of the Creator
It’s a tough lesson, but it’s what Glass has to learn. It’s a meditation that keeps him alive and warm when he’s lost, and it’s a choice he has to make once he’s been found. After being abandoned by the team, he trudges his way back to civilization with this mantra on his mind. I can’t go into too much detail about this angle without spoiling the film, so while I won’t say what choice he makes, he most certainly has this mantra on his mind while he makes it.
Strangely enough, the thought did not enter his head from any American mindset; instead, he hears it from a wandering Native who he happens to meet in the wild. The Pawnee has just harvested the remains of a recently-hunted-by-wolf-pack buffalo for food, and a weak and tired Glass awakens from a nap to the smell of his smoke and the crunching of the bull’s bones. The two connect and converse over fresh innards – the first food either of them has had in days. Glass, who can speak Pawnee, shares his plight, and as it turns out, the Native is also on a similar adventure – less of the revenge-seeking part and more of the homecoming part. The Native then shares the aforementioned proverb, and it’s profundity sticks with Glass throughout the film. Again, I won’t say how it comes up in the end…just have your handkerchiefs ready.
Have your filters ready, too, as the action in this film gets really violent really quickly. In a manner similar to The Last of the Mohicans and The Patriot, the gruesomeness is in the losing of limbs and scalps and even bear fights (again, Leo wins), so be warned if that kind of stuff gets to you. The language is also grungy and disparaging, but I’m a lot of us would not be as refined if we were living in the same conditions as these people. Besides all that, however, The Revenant is an excellent film with an excellent message, and you would be remiss not to see it in a theater.