I didn’t love ‘The Revenant’ like so many other critics have, but I won’t call it overrated either. It had some really beautiful cinematography and some pretty gruesome scenes of nature. The running theme throughout it was the fine line between life and death. Nature is the very thing that provides life, but it can also be dangerous when people get lost in the wilderness and human beings have become so dependent on man made things over the past several thousand years. One quick comment about a certain forgone conclusion regarding the Oscars this year: it’s all but a given that Leonardo DiCaprio will win the award for Best Actor. I’m a fan of DiCarprio for his body of work and his activism. I just don’t think that he should win this year. Personally I thought he should have won for ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ two years ago over Matthew McConoughey-well, him or Chiwetel Ejiofor. This year, I think the Bryan Cranston should win. It’s just annoying that DiCaprio could win this year for the same reason Julienne Moore won last year over Rosamund Pike: the campaign seems to think his time. No one should win an Oscar for any reason other than the voters honestly feeling that they gave the best performance of the year, not because they’ve been nominated a lot and it’s their turn to win. Ok, rant over.
There are several moments when Hugh Glass (Dicaprio) walks a fine line between life and death. It is the middle of winter and his hunting party is traveling in the northern plains collecting animal pelts for trade. There is of course the much talked about scene when he is mauled by a bear (can’t blame the bear for not liking humans hunting for pelts). The party has to keep his wounds clean and also keep him warm: there weren’t exactly an abundance of hotels to take how showers in back then. There is another point when Glass is alone and camping near a river with freezing water. He starts a fire under the shelter to keep warm. The shelter could have easily caught fire and burned him to death. Within minutes, Glass has to jump into the freezing river to hide from potential attackers. He then has to get fire to dry himself again. There is a point later in the film when his horse it is killed after jumping off a cliff when running from attackers. He strips his clothes, cuts the horse open and crawls inside to keep warm. Of course, if he’d stayed in too long, the horse’s corpse would lose the heat generated by a live, warm blooded animal and he would have frozen to death. The entire film is a series of situations where Glass walks the fine line between life and death. It’s like a more graphic Jack London story.
The situation with the horse brings up an issue I had with the film. It’s a similar issue that I’ve had with movies like ‘No Escape:’ people (an animals in the case of the horse) who tried to help Glass, often ended up dead for their troubles. It’s an honorable thing to risk one’s life to help a stranger, but it’s hard to feel for the protagonist when he shows so little appreciation or even acknowledgement for the people who helped him and lost their lives for their troubles. There is the exception of his son who stopped Tom Hardy’s Fitzgerald from suffocating him, leading to the quest for revenge; but there are a couple other people who get no such appreciation. It’s hard to say if the audience is supposed to see him as a righteous man or a hypocrite. A friend of mine talked about this and it helped me identify something that bothered me, but I couldn’t put my finger on: His final action of letting Fitzgerald float down the river toward a group of scalping Native Americans (can’t really blame them for not liking white men poaching their wildlife, kidnapping their daughters, and murdering their tribes though) while saying that revenge is in God’s hands makes his ethics questionable to say the least. The actions, or the words separately could have been understandable, but the combination lost Glass his moral high ground. ‘The Revenant’ is up for ‘Best Picture’ at the Oscars next Sunday. It is still playing in all mainstream theaters in the Greater Dayton Area this week.