The Revenant - Blood and Guts and Horse Carcasses
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has a reputation for making movies filled with emotional and sometimes physical brutality. His most famous effort, last year’s best picture winner Birdman was no different. It had the appearance of a comedy, but was filled to the brim with themes of nihilism. His new film, The Revenant, has no pretense of being anything outside of being a pretty intense sit. I came out of my first viewing unsure what I was supposed to gain from the experience, *however*, The Revenant is a fascinating film, filled with some of the best filmmaking I’ve seen in some time. While I am unsure of what I was supposed to get from the film, I am enthusiastic about seeing it again, and that is the key. A film can have as much thematic symbolism, but if you are unable to find a hook, it falls flat.
Hugh Glass (Leonardo Dicaprio) is a fur trapper on a routine job when his camp is raided by Native Americans. They are forced to retreat without a lot of their earnings, and while on a hunt on his way back Glass is mauled by a bear and inevitably left for dead by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who also murders his Half-Native American son. The film follows his effort to survive and make his way back to confront Fitzgerald. It’s a very simple story, but through Glass’ journey the film examines a few elements.
My big problem with The Revenant, and this could be because I need to see it again, is that there are several themes hinted at during the film. There is the aspect of Man vs. Nature that many critics have already spoken on, but that’s such a boring aspect to actually talk about, and I don’t think it’s as big a part of The Revenant as has been hinted. A big aspect that the film examines is the relationship between the Natives and the pilgrims of the time. We see the mistreatment the natives endure, and the hidden racism of many of the fur trappers. It is a major aspect that drives The Revenant’s plot. Another theme is the use of Religion to justify violence, we see Fitzgerald praying several times throughout the film, and most of the fur trappers go through rituals of prayer at several times throughout the film. The Revenant sees religion as a tool of convenience to justify the ugliness hidden in these men. Alejandro Inarritu is a big fedora fan after all.
The appeal of The Revenant, its great filmmaking and cinematography are its greatest strengths. The action scenes are so layered, the camera follows every aspect of the battle of the scene. It’s a stunning experience, and the movie demands an IMAX or ACX viewing because of it. Scenes like this are thrilling, and an experience unlike anything available to you in a theater right now. Inarritu’s visions are such complete works, and this film may be my favorite of his so far.
The Revenant is not for everybody, but for those game for a challenging experience may find a lot to love here. It’s a hell of a movie, a transfixing, meditative watch, and I dug it quite a bit.