The Revenant : A Film Review

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He’s not a Reverent, but a Revenant, someone who also seeks revenge. Inside his spirit has returned after a near death experience.  The Revenant is a spirit or ghost which comes back to haunt the living.   It is as this film turns out.

Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, USA, Argentina, Rating 15. Cost. A chilling $13 million dollars. Duration. 2hrs 36mins.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass. Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald trapper, Domhnall Gleeson as Captain Andrew Henry the hunting party leader, Will Poulter as Jim Bridger, Forrest Goodluck as Hawk, Glass’s son, Isaiah Tootoosis as young Hawk,
Arthur RedCloud as Hikuc, Grace Dove as Hugh Glass’ Wife, Paul Anderson as Anderson, Brendan Fletcher as Fryman, Kristoffer Joner as Murphy, Melaw Nakehk’o as Powaqa, Duane Howard as Elk Dog, father of Powaqa, Brad Carter as Johnnie,
Lukas Haas as Jones,Tyson Wood as Weston.
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The Revenant is a 2015 American frontier revenge film directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Written by Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith, it is based in part on Michael Punke’s The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, the film is inspired by the experiences of frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass. Set in 1823 Montana and South Dakota

Blood lost, Life Found

So goes the story of the film based on true events.  Already acclaimed by academicians for the Oscars and acclaimed by early cinemagoers it brings adventure of a frontiersman on expedition into new territories.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays the explorer Hugh Glass who is brutally attacked by a bear and then left by the members of his team abandoned.  The epic nature of his will to survive is borne out by the strength of recovery from blood loss and loss of the mobility required to trek the two hundred or so miles to safety. He is full of the urge for revenge for what the team he has recruited done to him after the mauling which has his life hanging over the precipice.  Elk were once common in Ireland but they became reduced in number and eradicated when they fled into the forests and due to their antlers with a very large span they became trapped and unable to get out.  This is a similar tale in many ways.
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Bravery, ingenuity, sufferance, guile, conviction, knowledge of the natural world, all sustain his character and this is a giant formidable physical tolerance of pain and handicap to overcome with the wildernesses capability to be vengeful along with his fellow humans in their abandonment.  The Wild West is untameable and Hugh Glass has two things in mind driving him on. The first is the love he holds for his lost Native American wife.  The second is revenge for his betrayer John Fitzgerald played by Tom Hardy. 

Complex survival

What starts off as these two drivers becomes instead a relentless heroic epic journey unfolding like a Nordic saga.                 It is an epic story without respite or reprieve from the opening frames of the world to which Europeans and despots; some not mutually exclusive,went to explore a future existence.  Trading in animal skins and logging, mining for the newly discovered places enriched by gold pockets were being unearthed and no-one had the gain on their fellow man as it was mostly new territories unfolding unheard of riches.

This is a superbly made, extraordinarily realistic depiction of horrific events which almost appear to be the daily consumption of the new frontiersmen.  Packing companies were formed and trappers employed.  The explore Hugh Glass hires a crew to take him into the inner wildernesses of the Rocky Mountains.  Giant mountains, untracked trails, wide expansive rivers and filled to the gunnels with Wolves, Bears and the original human beings of discovery. The Native American Indians. The wars between the Sioux Indians and settlers and the U.S. Army lasted from 1854 to 1890 and between the warriors of the explorer Indians themselves.
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The origin of the Amerind race could be traced to the aboriginal Indians of North and South America, mainly of Asian ancestry and the reddish dark brown features and high cheekbones make it a distinctive race which itself became broken down into tribes.  The presence of these people was a massive obstacle for any new settlers and both armies of European and White descent were able to establish footholds through force of arms and weapon army of all descriptions.  Also a major obstacle was the terrain and severe winters. Strangely though the climate and cultural connections via. Sprit alone makes it hard to believe the Innuit, Eskimo race had no part in North American land occupation.

The film starts off with a very violent, brilliantly choreographed and filmed battle scene full of stunning shocking acts of  hand to hand violence and brutality as the frontiersmen in Hugh Glass’s group gather their pelts and are harvesting the a carcasses and every scrap of useful trapped animal for food and fortune.  They are attacked by the Native Indians firstly descending from the hill above them in a daylight attack in big numbers on horseback. Some with rifles and many with arrows and spears.  The Indian warrior collective acts as a swift invading army as the frontiersmen are nearing completion of their hunting and departure again in the boats they arrived in and had planned to again depart this area, this dense stretch of forest where they have hunted and gathered their pile.
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With this battle comes the outcome or presentation of the following, engrossing, compelling story which never lets up, for long, in its grim depiction of this raw reality.  Based on actual events the hardships, tyranny, lawlessness, greed and sacrifice are all in our view.  The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful and the immense grander of nature with its laws and continuity is extremely well captured.

Territories the pyramid of skulls

Away from roads and railways and motels, modern hostellers with spas and hot baths overlooking canyons and affording tranquil rest and recuperation along with measured, contained and conquered recreation this film which the final credits show was a massive undertaking with many, many people of all skills involved is itself a statement of significance for the endurance needed and for the telling of this story of The Revenant.
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Back from the dead.  Leonardo DiCaprio is remarkable and had to fatten up to loose calories and weight during this physical trial.  He had to be very fit and physically sound in all aspects as the film is one of astonishing recovery and regrowth from the deep and severe wounds and injuries which a re prosthetically crafted to convince filmgoers as quite believable and never questionable as the journey into the film is taken by us.  Occasionally there is lens contamination from specks of blood, from snow, both simultaneous reminders of fact as fiction and the inverse.

As we watch it enters folklore.  As Shackleton was to journey across the Antarctic we have no vision of the peril or complexity of survival mental or physical and so this appears as an observers insight.  Not many people will like the lack of dialogue and the slow pace of the film but it is atmospheric in that Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu captures and arrests with his vision of the vast wilderness of unconquered of territories in the new found North America.  The pace only sometimes a problem and no matter how important different approaches to survival are explored it is there, intended to convey the size of the task, to live against the odds in this landscape the retribution, betrayal, hurt and vengeance slowly creep up and from the initial ordeal form the primary consciousness of Leonardo DiCaprio.
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Quality of portrayal and detail

Only so many desperate looks are able to be called upon and much as have long appreciated his skills and ability to turn his characters around and inside out sometimes he is here fixed in a role which while delivering clearly his immense capability to build and hold real persona and convey the depth of the role he is limited somewhat by the sole direction and focus the film brings.  Not many other emotions or range of emotions or times sales are dave eloped or indeed needed in this epic story.  

It is episodic of the life of the real Hugh Glass and is not biographical.  It is true Leonardo DiCaprio performs this role commandingly and at times brilliantly which is deserving of award as it matches and exceeds most other ‘performers’ in their own portrayal of character.  An actor is only as good as his character allows and Leonardo DiCaprio is hide bound somewhat by a singular lack of dialogue requiring instead reliance on thrusting forward those other distinctive acting skills he holds without adding too, to complete the whole.

Horses for Courses.          
For all that the physical gruelling work, he forgoes hygiene for long periods and his Winnebago must have been a mess and stank, he endures sufficiently to make his mark as a brilliant actor and there are roles ahead which will hopefully reveal this even further. Of his skills he can say he is a good if not very good horseman. In one scene this broken but pulling it together Pseudo Indian sidles up to a tied up horse which only happens to be, with deadly accuracy an Indian horse, an Appaloosa which is small, speckled and white.  Maybe the wranglers asked the art unit to give it a bit of make up for authenticity.

Anyhow Leonard is astride and any aches vanish as they helter skelter off with remarkable results. Something miraculous and stunning coming right up which makes you near fall of your seat. Some Indian horses are small stocky Leonard Mesi types. Some are light framed nimble and have immense endurance.  None of your speedy white mans quarter horses here!  Nor the ones from South West America which are mostly chestnut called Palominos that like the sunshine! As they say, if the winds from the North it’s bad for your horses and if it’s from the south or west it’s bad for your pigs.  If it’s from the east it’s bad for me. Are we talking the of the forebode cue of China’s economic woes?
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Indian culture

Spirituality is ever present with the rogue, wreckless John Fitzgeald played with cunning and alacrity by Tom Hardy, frequently summoning up quotations from the Gospel as formative to his will.  Attribution to a spirit is cast by the Indians through evocations more loosened from mortal mans tendency to apply their own existence, mankind, to the form of spirit which the gospel even serves as difference to in that it attributes Jesus’s form in his image yet of mans mantle the spirit is made of other.  The Indians obey the forces of nature and interpret their vexing complexity to serve them.

Duane Howard is in a trance most of the time inhabited by a will to find his daughter and it is conveyed as naïve and ludicrous.  The sentiments of Western ideology is not complicit but the director maybe has chosen that method to convey our own uncertainty in contrast. He’s a Pawnee Indian, a member of a confederacy of North American Plains Indians of Caddoan stock formerly located along the Platte River valley, Nebraska, and now living in northern Oklahoma.

The development of this film must have been a logistical struggle and it has paid of.  Cat of production is not huge and it occurs to me there must have been a huge wage bill and with the actors paid their ‘dues’ along with some of the many unsung stunt men and women the budget was probably efficient.  The conditions were perilous and hopefully any damages to man or beast were minimal.  I left the film theatre with what I would describe as an Eskimo head cold, such was the experience of the winter setting.  I met a lovely couple from Barrow, Alaska last week, Penny and Morgan, perplexed by our weather. Aren’t we all no matter where we are?  We talked amongst other things about their diet and how they lived of the land with duck mentioned as fattening and ‘delicious’. I actually felt honoured to met them, putting that down to an affirmation of natural connection.  It may seem naive or unrealistic to suggest connection exists but I think it occurs naturally, frequently in many interactions. The Chinese have duck acclaimed as a bit of an aphrodisiac funnily enough.  It does not help population control but I’m sure there are ways round that. There are refreshingly common attitudes and creative thinking in the unity of mankind found in these explorations with an optimistic believe if the message and moral analysis is taken more than superficially a beneficial aspect and a lot of positive thoughts to emerge from such evaluations.  A message if you like, that you can extract from this film.

Conclusion ####4

This is an outstanding epic movie which depicts a time when discovery and exploitation along with a loose relation to the law or obedience to the natural order tested humanities skills in overcoming the dynamics of mere survival.  It preceded the period of industrialisation and departures off the land which took very large amounts of labour and some fortune in being in a harmonious place where what you intended would flourish in the conditions.

The story is told brilliantly and with care to detail, incredible acting along with sharp editing with ,any stunts and awesome experiences shown in full widescreen splendour.  As a period of American history it is to use the word correctly totemic.  The actualality of events is, however some distortions may be found, is an example of superior storytelling.  Fortune bound up with spirits unknown it saves going in the direction of patronising and judging and shows things for us to make up our own minds.

Go see, you ought not be disappointed.

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