Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar taking on the role of legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass, in the remarkable film, The Revenant. The movie, based in the 1820’s Wyoming Rocky Mountains, in and of itself was beautifully made, making use of all natural lighting and the breathtaking wilderness scenes accompanying Calgary and Alberta, Canada, as well the trip to Argentina during shooting. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu also picked up an Oscar for Best Director even though the film came with its woes. DiCaprio and Inarritu fought blistering weather, crew defections, and ironically, a lack of snow for needed scenes, but the issues did not in the least tarnish the final product. In fact, the brutal filming conditions most certainly added to the film’s overall authenticity.
Glass, in history is often overshadowed by the larger than life Jim Bridger, who also plays a role in the film as a strapping young fur trapper played by Will Poulter who is portrayed selflessly sacrificing his time and safety to look after the incapacitated Glass after a terrifyingly realistic bear mauling. But it is once Glass comes to that his unprecedented pathway into legendary status unfolds. Although the fact that the heavy driver of the film, the murder of Hawk (Forest Goodluck), Glass’s half-Pawnee son, by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is historically inaccurate, the immenseness of the film and the portrayal of the indomitable human spirit against all odds is tenaciously awe-inspiring making a little creative license largely forgivable.
The film is truly gritty, hard hitting, and it’s immersive illustration of the dangerously beautiful frontiers life makes the modern day viewer’s eye scarcely wander from the screen over the span of its near three hour long run. We find ourselves invested throughout the film as it conjures up emotions scarcely felt in the modern world and it testifies of the range of feeling a person can have, the unforgiving wilderness coaxing it out of each of us and bringing them to the surface.
There is a surreal and melancholic attitude saturating the entirety of the film, as long segments of it are devoid of human speech. It isn’t needed for the most part as we see that the premise is set around a man who, for one, after the bear slashes his throat finds it painful and nearly impossible to speak, and for two, is alone in a grand and harsh landscape with only visions of his wife to keep him moving.
Maulings aside, we follow Glass gruelingly clawing his way from beyond the grave to outmaneuvering the incessant barrage of arrows whizzing past his head at any given moment to hurdling off cliffs, diving into freezing cold rapids, and TaunTaun-ing it up by settling into the hollowed out cavity the warm corpse of his stolen horse provides all to hunt down and exact revenge on Fitzgerald. Of which upon finding him spares him the death he deserves, albeit after an epic and gory slash and hack fight scene. The Natives, however, make an appearance at this point and make short work of Fitzgerald while somberly making their way passed Glass, allowing him the breath he needs to begin to make peace with all he’s been through.
Throughout, the film is tense in every manner, but the underlying tone of the film whispers from the dust and gives us ever needed moments of relief through the masterfully incorporated vision scenes where Glass, in his agony beholds his lost and beautiful Pawnee wife(Grace Dove). She comes to him at his lowest moments, in one scene hovering horizontally over his beleaguered and beaten body well he wept alone and destitute, her dress whipping in the wind through the gray, overcast light. She says “As long as you can still grab breath, you fight.”