The other night, a storm rolled through. There are a few trees in my yard I always worry about falling over. With the wind gusting and the rain pouring down, theses trees were shaking every which way. But then I remembered a line in The Revenant. “When there is a storm. And you stand in front of a tree. If you look at its branches, you swear it will fall. But if you watch the trunk, you will see its stability.” It’s true, the trunk was steady. That tree wasn’t going anywhere. Another storm weathered without having to replace my neighbor’s fence.
But that’s too literal. We are all trees and in the storms of our lives, our branches are going to be shaken. Shaken so hard we may lose a few. But our trunks, anchored by strong roots are not going to let go so easily. The Revenant is about a man with one hell of a strong trunk. He’s not going down, even when he’s been mauled by a bear, helplessly watched his son murdered right in front of him and left in a shallow grave to die.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, the one with the strong trunk I mentioned above. He and his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) are leading some fur traders around the American frontier, in wild lands full of angry Native Americans who are looking for whoever took Powaqa, the chief’s daughter. They lose a lot of men when they are attacked in the first big scene of the film. The fact that Glass’s son is half Native American does not win him many friends among the fur traders. After Glass is brutally attacked by a bear, Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) decides to leave three men to take care of Glass until he can make the trip back, or bury him when he dies. Hawk, Bridger (Will Poulter) and Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) volunteer, though it’s obvious Fitzgerald only does so for the extra money. Fitzgerald kills Hawk and tricks Bridger into leaving Glass. And Glass rises up from the grave he was left in to seek revenge on Fitzgerald.
If Leonardo DiCaprio does not win an Oscar for this brutal role, I don’t know if he ever can. The scene where he is attacked by the bear is intense, frightening and convincing. From then on, being dead weight in a stretcher made from tree branches and slowly recovering DiCaprio does not let up. After he is abandoned, he does not give up. We watch him drag himself across the dirt and snow. In one scene he really eats a raw bison liver. In another he crawls inside a real dead horse as if it were a damn Tauntaun. Like a Luke Skywalker on the frozen frontier. Just imagining all the suffering DiCaprio and the rest of the crew went through schlepping through the snow to make this film they all deserve the highest awards.
Tommy Hardy becomes a remarkable villain in this film and it earned him his first Oscar nomination. He seems to have survived a scalping and obviously has a bad relationship with the Native Americans. With Glass having a “half breed” son, he picks Glass and his son as enemies immediately. The way we love to hate Fitzgerald helps us justify Glass’s motives for revenge, even if he doesn’t seem the sort for revenge.
The Revenant is nominated for a whopping twelve Academy Awards, the most of any film this year. DiCaprio is nominated for lead actor while Hardy earns nomination for supporting actor. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu received his third directing nomination. The rest are for cinematography, editing, production design, hair/makeup styling, costume design, sound mixing, sound editing and, of course, best picture. I’m sure The Revenant will not leave Oscar night empty handed.
While I do not recommend this film for a date night, I do think it is a great and well done movie. It has a rare mix of natural beauty and old grit that is amazing to see in a modern film. I was very happy to read that Iñárritu decided to use no CGI and only natural light in nearly the entire movie. And while DiCaprio’s performance here is far from glamorous, it is amazing and not to be missed.
“No… Revenge is in God’s hands. Not mine.”