Saturday, January 16, 2016
Leonard DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a tracker with a fur-trapping expedition in the uncharted parts of North Dakota and Montana in the 1820s. After the party is ambushed by an Indian war party, Glass and the other survivors, led by Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), retreat back to friendly territory, but when Glass is mauled by a bear and nearly killed, Glass's son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), the inexperienced Bridger (Will Poulter), and the salty John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) volunteer to stay behind with Glass, to give him a proper burial when he succumbs to his wounds. But Fitzgerald gets impatient, kills Hawk, and leaves Glass to die.
The Revenant revels in the physical details: the snow, the ice, the rushing river, the wind, the mud, the grime, and the blood. This is not a romanticized look at the untamed American wilderness; this is a hostile, indifferent world filled with creatures and people who would just as soon kill and eat you as they would leave you lying on the ground. This is the kind of movie that makes you want to take a hot bath after watching it, especially once Glass escapes hostile natives by sliding into freezing water and letting the flow of the river take him to safety. Rarely has wet clothing on film looked so miserable to wear. In a desperate moment later on, as a blizzard falls, Glass disembowels a dead horse and slides inside its carcass, naked, to stay warm.
The aftermath is arguably more intense. We see gruesome closeups of Glass' wounds, on his back and his throat, and this being the 1820s, we know he doesn't have the advantages of painkillers or antiseptic as Henry and the others treat him, stitching up his cuts and gashes with him still awake. These wounds become nastily infected, and it's rare for a movie to show its hero so vulnerable and physically weakened. How many times have we seen Arnold or Stallone brush off gunshot wounds like they were nothing? Here, Glass can't even sit up after the bear mauls him, and it's only a gradual and slow road to recovery before he can even walk.