The Revenant

[This post was originally posted on Andrews.Reviews]

Yesterday I briefly talked with a cinematographer about the movie the Revenant.

“You definitely have to go see it in the theater. It’s so beautiful. He shot the entire movie in natural light.”

“I’ve heard that it’s beautiful. There’s just one thing. My greatest fear in life is bears. I’ve heard there’s a scene…”

“Ok. Yeah. You definitely should NOT see this movie. It is not for you. Not a good idea.”

It’s true. I have a deep-seated fear of bears due to a couple backpacking trips I took while in Boy Scouts in my early teens.

I went to see it anyway.

It was as beautiful as I had anticipated. It was also horrific. Gruesome. Disgusting. Powerful. And mesmerizing.

I think this is basically the tall tale of Hugh Glass: the guy who was attacked by a grizzly bear, left for dead, yet lived to tell about it. I don’t know the original story well enough to say whether or not this is a highly exaggerated tale or not. But, I’m going to go on a hunch and say, yeah, yeah this was exaggerated a bit. It’s ok. It’s a movie. And I think they pulled it off pretty well.

I do know that the whole he had a son with a Native American thing was completely made up for the movie. It makes the story that much more powerful when Glass is out for revenge and blood than just to go get his knapsack back from John Fitzgerald.

Beyond awards season, it makes sense to release this in the middle of winter. The entire time I watched the film, I felt cold. Every time I saw them walk into a stream of water it sent chills up my spine. It made my feet go numb. Horrible. Anyone who has spent any times hiking in that kind of weather can understand how miserable it is to be wet and cold, hiking in what feels the middle of nowhere.

I’m so not in tune with the technical sides of things, that I probably will never fully appreciate the depths of hell this film crew put themselves to film this movie. At the same time, as a movie-goer I don’t think I necessarily need to appreciate those things. It’s amazing to hear about, but it shouldn’t necessarily impact whether or not I enjoyed this film. I did notice that the infamous bear scene was done in one take. And that, well, that’s pretty incredible.

My wife and I both saw this film today (separately because that’s how we do dates these days when you don’t want to hire a babysitter) and it’s fascinating to realize how differently we view films. She saw the film first and came back and told me that she didn’t like it and that I wouldn’t like it. That I shouldn’t see it. Ha! Right! Like that makes me want to stay home and not go see the film. Now she piqued my interest.

Her overall complaint is that she didn’t really know 1) if he lives at the end and 2) what the point of the movie was. What was the message? Was there even one? The cruelty of man and nature?

There was a scene within the battle sequence at the beginning of the film that seems to capture the essence of this movie. The whole scene is brutal. It is gruesome. Person after person just killed. But there was a sequence where we see one man kill another man who gets killed by another man who gets killed by another man who gets killed by another man who gets killed by another man. Yep. That sounds about right. Mix in the indiscriminate  cruelty and harshness of mother nature and you have the movie.

Maybe Iñárritu has probably hinted at or stated the purpose or main point of the movie, I’m not sure. But I definitely think the last sentence uttered in the film may be the main point: “Revenge is in god’s hands not mine.”

It was a long movie. And I think it needed to be. If the pace was any faster it would have been distracting. I was often at the edge of my seat not knowing what happen next. It is definitely a movie that I don’t really need to see again, but I know that if I did I would notice a lot more about the details of the film – both in the storyline and in the cinematography.

Stray Observations: 

  • When Glass is floating down river on that log I definitely had flashbacks to the Titanic.
  • I also couldn’t help but think of the short story by Jack London, To Build a Fire. 
  • I obviously knew that there would be a bear attack scene but I hadn’t anticipated it so early in the film.
  • There’s always something that irks me about a film where the main character, the character we are all rooting for, is severely injured and has to hobble his way through the entire movie only to eventually take down the villain. Although Glass nearly died countless times, I also kind of felt like he was an injured Superman, fighting his way to Lex Luthor or something.
  • Not sure how to process the portrayal of the Native Americans in this film. I’m just ignorant to how things really were, but can’t say that it helps alleviate any stereotypes. That’s for sure.
  • I am pretty sure “fuck” was not used as a cuss word that far back.
  • Some things I’d like to explore more if I watched it again:
    • The big mound of skulls(?)
    • More of the backstory of his family and his history with the Native Americans.
    • The differences between the two tribes.
    • The historical realities of what the French and Americans were doing in the same area of the country at the time. What would have happened if they had come across each other?
  • How did he not get gangrene?
  • Did he live?

Grade: B+

One thought on “Revenge is in God’s Hands

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