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The Revenant explores one fundamental question is the human spirit powered by survival or revenge?
No matter if you’re a born survivor by the end of 2hrs42 mins you learn a number of things: either wee before the film starts if you know you have a weak bladder or make this an immersive cinema endurance experience and train your bladder right there and then, there’s safety in numbers, go to a cinema that allows you to buy booze and drink it as this is one intense movie that leaves you thinking Bear Grylls is a Boy Scout because I never saw him sleep in a freshly gutted dead horse!
Loosely put The Revenant is set in the early 19th century when the West was still wild, fortunes could still be made and the Native Americans were still fighting against the immigrants who they initially welcomed but slowly realised were stealing their land etc. The film starts with the settlers hunting for furs and a bloody battle ensues. Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) was employed by the immigrants to help get everyone back safely to the fort but through his own pride or independent spirit goes off into the woods one morning alone and learns an important lesson – there’s safety in numbers – as he is mauled by a bear. What follows is little short of a miracle that spans 2 hours of screen time as he recovers from the horrific injuries and returns back to the fort to seek his revenge against John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who took everything from him when he was at his weakest.
The Revenant is directed by Oscar winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu and he seems to be seeking to take the audience on an intense and immersive experience. Whilst the actors and crew may have shivered through the making of the film, you will as well as you watch Hugh Glass trek through snow and be tossed through the rapids like a broken twig. The cinematography is beautiful and for great swathes of the film there is little dialogue and a lot of grunting and straining as Hugh Glass makes his odyssey to avenge what was so brutally taken from him by John Fitzgerald. I applaud the endurance that actors undertook to get into the role and the cinematography is outstanding but for me the film lacked the poetic and almost lyrical style of The Last Of The Mohicans or Dances With Wolves. Not least because I didn’t shiver as I watched those two movies. Equally they didn’t seem as if they were trying hard to win awards instead appeared to truly want to tell a story. During parts of The Revenant, it was a question of whose story was the most important that of Hugh Glass’s odyssey and battle against the elements to survive or the Native American tribal leader searching for his daughter taken from him by the immigrants. There was also lots of social commentary that at times felt tedious and a little laboured.
Also, lest I forget to mention the blood and guts and there was a lot of it sometimes a little too much. At 2hrs 30 into the film I felt like shouting out I understand it was a savage time!
The Revenant opened in cinemas across the UK on 15 January 2016.