THE REVENANT

Poffy The Cucumber

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Revenge served cooooold…

Think of the coldest pain you’ve ever felt. The most painful cold, biting into your delicate earlobes, torturing your dead toes, eating into your fingers; no feeling, no hope, no vestige of pumping blood. Now multiply it by Leonardo DiCaprio in a bear rug.

In the stark survivalist thriller THE REVENANT, Leo is tracker Hugh Glass, a real life frontiersman in 1800’s North Dakota, whose claim to notoriety was surviving a grizzly bear attack, being left for dead by his employers, and dragging his broken body across unforgiving wilderness to enact revenge on the man who deserted him and killed his son.

Glass aids fur trappers, led by Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), in unchartered North American wilds. The party is attacked by “Ree” Natives (short for Arikaree), in a realistic pitched battle, that seems so unscripted, it seems amazing no one got a flaming arrow through the throat. This earthy realism would inform every frame of this brute film.

The reason this and the movie’s other action scenes are so overwhelming is because they are shot in 360-degree, unbroken takes! We can see and feel the mortal terror around us in real time. (None of that eye-straining BOURNE SUPREMACY/ TAKEN crash-cutting and camera-shake!) As he did with his magnificent BIRDMAN (2014), director Alejandro G. Iñárritu astounds us with unbroken takes that are simply incredible for their planning, blocking and pacing like buttah.

On foot, trying to elude the Ree, Glass must now contend with the belligerence of one of the trackers, Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, again disappearing into his role, using yet another unique accent in his varied arsenal – the modern day Gary Oldman!) Among other insults, Glass is accused of being on the Natives’ side, as his dead wife was Pawnee, as is his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), who is on this trip. (Touching scenes of Glass speaking in Pawnee to Hawk, advising him to keep his head down for safety, to never raise it and try to be great in any way.)

There is also Bridger (Will Poulter, who was an insufferable nerd in NARNIA, then the masculine alpha male in MAZE RUNNER, and here reduced to a boyish waif amongst the giants DiCaprio and Hardy).

Glass inadvertently wanders into a bear’s territory, and is attacked savagely. It should be just another plot point – but this bear attack is wholly the feature piece of the film. Sensational. Is this CGI or a trained bear? All we know is, if it’s two-guys-in-a-bear-suit, one of them really hated DiCaprio. One of the scariest scenes in modern cinema because of its realism. 800 pounds of fury slamming into Glass in real time, pummeling him into the ground as if trying to flatten him, biting at anything it can – backpack, clothes, arms – standing on his head, pushing it into the muddy earth, grabbing his hand in its jaws. Glass screaming in terror and absolute pain as nerves and bone are exposed, clumps of flesh torn away from his back, the bear’s breath fogging the camera; its rage palpable, swaying on his spine, undecided on what further destruction it can visit upon his broken body that it hasn’t already done…

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Leo DiCaprio bear-ing up. (Too soon?)

When the fur traders find him, Glass is so near death, rather than carrying his dead weight through unyielding mountainous woods, Captain orders that Glass should be tended to until he dies, while the party moves on. His son Hawk stays with him; Narnia is ordered to stay. And “Fitz” volunteers…

Arrogant, blustery Fitz (who had survived a scalping by Ree warriors in the past) had a point: in this unforgiving wasteland, the primo rule was self-preservation. His money and life were at stake and Glass was potentially ruinous to both. In order to catch up to the fur party and claim his share, Fitz tries to kill Glass quickly and ends up killing Hawk instead, while Narnia whimpers in the middle background. Fitz and Narnia flee to the trader’s outpost, leaving Glass for dead.

So begins the traumatic tale of Glass inching his way forward on broken bones and unbended spirit, through rapids and mountain ranges, glaciers and snowbound forests; the most astounding aspect being that Glass did all this long before modern medicine! (Every time he would be forced into rushing ice-rivers, all I could think of was, His wounds are opening!) Hunted by Natives, aided by other Natives; a sub-plot of a raped Native girl, and a nod to a tauntaun belly on the ice planet Hoth…


Tarantino may boast about his “glorious 70mm” (filmstock best utilized on sweeping vistas, for which there were only a few scenes in his HATEFUL EIGHT), but director Iñárritu actually delivers such grandiose beauty without all the boasting, via his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. The proof is in this breathtaking visual poem; every scene, almost too much art for our natural senses to assimilate. Awe-inspiring, magnificent! The hardship of making this movie bleeds from the screen, as does the beauty and reward of that hardship.

Based in part on the novel by Michael Punke, Hugh Glass’s obsessive revenge tale is nothing new in cinema, though the primal filmmaking techniques set this movie apart from other retribution tales. Strange then, that Glass’s final ruse is stolen from the last scene in CROCODILE DUNDEE II!

END

Revenant_titleTHE REVENANT (Jan 2016) R
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
Writers: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Michael Punke.
Music: Ryuichi Sakamoto, Carsten Nicolai.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Paul Anderson, Kristoffer Joner, Joshua Burge, Duane Howard, Melaw Nakehk’o, Arthur RedCloud, Lukas Haas, Grace Dove.
RATINGS-09imdb
Word Count: 880      No. 1,213
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