Believe it or not, sometimes a film comes along that is truly difficult to review. The Revenant – at least for this particular writer – is most certainly one of these films.
Based in part on Michael Punke‘s semi-biographical novel “The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge” and set in early 1800s Montana and South Dakota, the film tells the story of frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and screenwriter Mark L. Smith first began work on the production in 2011, after the original two directors (Park Chan-Wook and John Hillcoat, respectively) left the project, which was first slated all the way back in 2001.
** WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS… YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!! **
The Revenant opens in 1823, when a party of hunters and trappers are hunting for pelts in the unsettled wilderness of the Louisiana Purchase (Montana and South Dakota, specifically – though the film was actually shot in Calgary, Alberta, Canada) under the command of Capt. Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Ex Machina). After a hostile Native American tribe ambushes their camp, only about one-third of the hunters manage to escape on one of their rafts, salvaging as much as they can while still under fire from the attacking Arikara Tribe. Shortly thereafter, Glass (DiCaprio) is viciously mauled by a grizzly bear. Although Glass manages to kill the grizzly that attacked him, his wounds are severe and he is near death. The hunting party does all they can to stabilize him, but given their limited resources out in the wilderness, there isn’t much that can be done.
Veteran trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy of The Dark Knight Rises and Inception), who is established early-on as a hard-nosed, no-nonsense jerk, continuously gripes about the retreat, and after many verbal spats with his Captain, reluctantly agrees to stay behind with a young Jim Bridger (Will Poulter of We’re the Millers) and Glass’ young half-Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck in his first major role) to care for the wounded Glass in exchange for $300 (an absurd amount of money way back then, in case you didn’t know). After only a few days, Fitzgerald opts to murder Glass to “put him out of his misery,” and when young Hawk objects, he murders Hawk in front of his nearly dead father. Bridger was absent for this, but returns in time to stop Fitzgerald from killing Glass… instead agreeing to leave him behind for dead.
Glass fights to survive, slowly recovering from his grave wounds, and begins to make his way back towards the settlement. Along the way, he must avoid the violent and ruthless tribe who are searching for their Chief’s daughter. He also encounters a Native American man from a different tribe who is hellbent on revenge, but takes time to help nurse Glass back to health. Eventually, Glass makes his way back to the town, just in time for Fitzgerald to flee… and of course, Glass to pursue him. Will he find him? Will he get his revenge? Will it be worth it if he does? I won’t spoil everything here, so I’ll leave that to you to find out.
From a technical standpoint, this film is absolutely brilliant. The cinematography is outstanding, the acting is about as perfect as it can be, the score is superb, and the visual effects are incredible. The entire crew behind all of this deserves all the awards they can get from this effort, particularly for the absolutely breathtaking shots they captured of the vast and beautiful North American wilderness.
Unfortunately, the technical brilliance of this film is about all I can really say about it. At two and a half hours, this film really drags and seems to stretch on WAY too long – which really took me (and from what I could see around me in the theater, most everyone else, too) out of the film. By the end, I overheard nearly everyone sitting near me complaining about it being too long and rather boring. Also worth noting is the final scene of the film, which shows us a close up Leonardo DiCaprio looking devastated and exhausted, was largely laughed at with people equating it to DiCaprio saying “Can I have my Oscar NOW? PLEASE!?!” – absolutely not the reaction the film was going for there, I’m sure.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, The Revenant was a lot like Stanley Kubrick‘s famous “2001 A Space Odyssey” in that it was about as perfect a film as one could make from a technical standpoint… but was sadly way too long, and just frankly kind of boring. At two and a half hours, it was simply exhausting to sit though, and while I can’t say enough about how technically outstanding it was, and how good Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and the entire cast were in their roles… it just simply wasn’t enough to save such a long, drawn-out movie. At the end of the day, a film is only as good as it is enjoyable for its audience, and while this one deserves all the praise in the world for so many things, being an enjoyable film just sadly wasn’t one of them. I can’t honestly recommend coughing up the money to see this one in theaters, but if you do, make sure to hit the bathroom first… trust me
Editor: Nerd Nation Magazine