Movie: The Revenant
My Rating: 3 stars
I was pretty motivated to see this movie, and I’m not entirely sure why. I’m not really a fan of Iñárritu’s work. He always seems to be trying a little too hard. And, the trailer made the film look like an absolute chore to watch. (And, at a little over two and a half hours long, it kind of turned out to be just that). And, the whole thing had that unmistakable odor of Oscar bait. That kind of shameless grasping is always a big turn off. But being already familiar with the story of Hugh Glass, and his trials out in the wilderness, I was fascinated to see how a filmmaker would interpret his journey. The details of this guy’s story are already so outrageous, they don’t need to be beefed up by a screenwriter for the sake of drama. Glass’s real life story is the ultimate testament to the human will to go on. It’s very inspiring stuff.
It’s always a difficult task to take a true story and make it into a compelling film. And naturally, this film succeeds in places, and fails in others. The film attempts to tell the story of fur trapper, Hugh Glass, on one ill-fated expedition. Conditions are rough for these guys even before things start to go bad for Hugh. His party has to contend with the brutal winter conditions in the northern wilds. Then, they also have to face the wrath of several Native American tribes who aren’t too pleased to have these white guys tramping through their land, harvesting all the wildlife. And then they have to deal all the vicious animals the forest can deliver to them—wolves, moose, and Glass’s own nemesis, Grizzly Bears. One thing that this movie does very well is convey to the audience just how dirty, soggy, and freezing the life of a fur trapper in the 1800s would have been. I felt like I was never going to be warm again after watching these guys go to sleep out in the wilderness, in river-soaked fur coats, in the dead of winter. And, the smells in camp must have been astounding with the mix of unwashed men, animal dung, and freshly harvested, raw pelts. I was not made for living out in the wilderness. But, apparently there are some people who were.
I don’t need to describe all the trials of Hugh Glass. Iñárritu sticks to his signature style of giving the audience a full catalog of all the things that can possibly go wrong for a character before wrapping things up nicely with an emotionally satisfying resolution. And that’s fine I guess. But, real life doesn’t ever work that way. Hugh Glass’s real story is astounding, but it doesn’t fit neatly into Iñárritu’s formula, so he took a few liberties there. And, I was a little disappointed by some of the really intense, real details that Iñárritu left out of the film, and by the less interesting things he replaced them with. That seemed like a real wasted opportunity.
All this being said, I guess I still recommend this movie if you’re in the mood for a bleak, icy tale of survival set in the hostile wilds. You also have to be ok with a fair amount of blood, and guts, and makeshift surgery in the field. (Watching someone get un-anaesthetized stiches is always the worst). But, Leo delivers a great performance as usual. Tom Hardy is good too. And, has there been a film released this year that Domnhall Gleason hasn’t been in? Oh well. The movie also has the added benefit of making you feel like you’re getting a mini history lesson in the process. So, you might as well go ahead and do this to yourself.