American frontier life has largely been glorified on film—think Disney’s “Davy Crockett” movies, or even a lot of Hollywood’s early westerns. Frontiersman Hugh Glass may not be as familiar to most as Crockett or Boone is, but his true story is incredible—one that director Alejandro G. Inarritu adapts in a gritty, beautiful film, “The Revenant,” which is nominated for more Oscars (12 total) than any other movie this year.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, who is leading a troupe of men commanded by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) through the wilds of the 1820s American West on a fur-trading expedition. Also among their crew is Glass’ half Indian son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), young Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a surly man who harbors a strong dislike for Glass and just about every other human. While scouting ahead one day Glass is viciously attacked by a giant bear. Lingering near death, unable to move or speak, the rest of the crew discovers him but soon finds it hard to transport him as the terrain becomes more and more treacherous. Fitzgerald, Bridger, and Hawk volunteer to stay behind with him, with Fitzgerald’s intentions being nothing short of terrible. After killing Hawk and leaving Glass for dead, Fitzgerald and an unknowing Bridger head toward civilization. Glass eventually rises, and begins his quest for revenge as he fights through the cold, snowy wilderness to find his way home—and kill Fitzgerald for what he did.
DiCaprio gives a strong performance in this movie—it’s often subtle. He often doesn’t speak. But he doesn’t need to, because we know just from looking at him how determined he is to survive and enact his revenge. DiCaprio is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the movie, and will likely win (even if it is a pity win for losing for “Wolf of Wall Street;” let’s face it, this film is great but it’s not his best). Hardy is good at playing unlikable people and he does that well here, although awarding him with a supporting actor nomination was probably a tad too much praise. Gleeson holds his own between two powerhouse actors playing the good-hearted captain.
Inarritu, nominated again for Best Director after winning the Oscar for last year’s “Birdman,” proves himself once again to be one of today’s finest directors. The way he uses imagery in “The Revenant” is beautiful, even inspiring at times. His reverence for nature is evident in every scene, whether we’re looking at a devastating snowstorm or a serene corner of the forest. He succeeds at making the film feel both intimate and epic; the way he shoots the film’s opening battle sequence, a lot of it in one long take with the camera following around the action, is nothing short of impressive. And the way he uses little visions Glass has throughout the film to reveal his background—his Native American wife was killed and their home destroyed when their village was burned years ago—gives just enough context to let viewers know where Glass comes from, and how his family motivates him.
“The Revenant”—a word that literally means one who rises from the dead—is a survival story, of both man versus nature and man versus man—it’s incredible to watch everything Glass goes through, and how he still perseveres. It’s violent; it’s gory. This is no glorification of frontier life, but it is a glorification of the human spirit.
Academy Award nominations for “The Revenant”:
· Best Picture
· Actor in a Leading Role: Leonardo DiCaprio
· Actor in a Supporting Role: Tom Hardy
· Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
· Film Editing
· Costume Design
· Makeup and Hairstyling
· Sound Mixing
· Sound Editing
· Visual Effects
· Production Design
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre