Ok first gold diggings in Grasberg!
Did grizzly bear folked Mr. Hugh DiCaprio???
Now what makes the movie special? I would rather replace the word ‘special’ with superior. The answer is EVERYTHING!!! Consider DiCaprio/Hardy performances, AGI’s direction, fighting sequences, cinematography, costume designing, bear attack, Frontiers vs Native Americans and many more. The movie is superlative.
The only concern pushing towards minus is its accuracy, the accuracy of Hugh Glass’ legacy, the accuracy of bear attack, the accuracy of Glass’ survival, the accuracy of attack by Native Americans on the expeditions team. There has been a lot of confusion over the legacy of the story. There are not a lot of authentic sources to prove what part of story is true or false. Most specifically the tragic bear attack which was witnessed by no buddy but the victim himself.
Let me reflect and justify my very first line of this review. A huge focus in the movie has been on antagonist John Fitzgerald played by Tom Hardy killing Hugh Glass’ son Hawk, which leads him to revenge upon survival attempt. The whole movie grows on his miracle survival from a likely death so that he finishes him. Sadly the core of the story is pure fiction. Forget Fitz killing his son, there is no proof that Hugh Glass had any child. Hawk being of mixed-race is an invalid question or typing error. Glass’ marriage with Native-American woman also has doubts because historic details are still unsure if Hugh Glass really was once captured by Pawnees where he found her, loved and married.
So if there is no evidence of Hawk being Hugh Glass’ son then with simple understanding there is no revenge on Fitz for killing his son. In fact the legacy is that when Glass received mortal wounds after bear attacks, expedition leader Captain Andrew Henry, played by Domhnall Gleeson in movie, pays two men to stay behind the soon-to-be-dead body of Hugh Glass until his death to give him a Christian burial. To add the spice, movie further shows Hawk volunteering the payee leading to his murder by agitated Fitz.
Some scenes agreeable with the facts are;
- Hugh Glass was a fur trapper and the bear attack occurred near the banks of the Grand River of South Dakota. He did come across two bear cubs until big momma had her say. The female grizzly bear did break his leg and punctured his throat.
- Hugh Glass was indeed dropped behind to die by the two men, Fitz and young Jim Bridger, played by Will Poulter due to the harsh fact that he wasn’t breathing his last for several days. Further confirmation is that both guys placed him in a grave, collected his weapons and off they go.
Further diggings confirm that the Native Americans depicted in the movie are the tribe of North Dakota, Arikara who suffered a high rate of fatalities from smallpox epidemics resulting in drastic fall in their population back in 18th century. Years later they moved between South and North of Dakota.
Enough of history!!! Now let me strive to focus on the movie….
What makes Hollywood cinematic industry so special than the others??? No not that Hollywood belongs to the United States. Actually, Hollywood introduces you to people from different diversities and backgrounds that cook and bring their ingredients in their kitchens to display a delicious food and bring a change in taste for the consumers. Now ‘The Revenant’ shows United States of the early 19th century and the story is based on a frontier legend who met his sorry fate after attack launched by Native Americans. And this movie is directed by a guy who has lived all his life in Mexico. Some great minds present great movies in great ways.
Alejandro González Iñárritu was the first Mexican-born director to have won Best Director in Cannes Films Festival for Babel. Years later he became only third director after John Ford (The Grapes of Wrath 1940, How Green Was My Valley 1941) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives 1949, All About Eve 1950) to win back to back Academy Awards (Birdman 2014, The Revenant 2015), and the first since 1950.
AGI had a splendid vision to present The Revenant and is obvious in his powerful direction. Many scenes are eye-opener like I am repeatedly mentioning attack on the expeditions team by Native Americans and Hugh Glass many phases of survival. But the best among all is the bear attack which will easily shut you up. This scene is built on your nerves. The human abuse is shot in a way that you would feel if the beast is skinning you.
I must say the VFX team has done magnificent choreography of this attack. It is not only that the viewer has a look at this brutal beating; the whole animal behavior is carefully read. Watch step by step, the way cubs are made feel unprotected, the way momma bear responds and attacks the gunman, the way the beatings begin i.e., stepping over and throwing all mighty weight on Glass, grabbing by mouth and swinging, then throwing on ground and gashing him. This shows the bear-behavior was carefully studied by all the involved makers.
The ‘sympathy’ factor for both human and animal is challenged because the attack scene has two consecutive parts connected in one-shot frame. First the mother bear attacks with understanding that gunman will kill the cubs and leaves later. But then the gunman tries to survive by shooting at mother bear and turning the other face of coin with sympathy where mother bear and gunman becomes villainous in their ways concluding with animal killing while trying to save her cubs. One of the best dramatic scenes I have watched in recent years!!!
One of the most remarkable aspects of the movie is that the whole movie is shot in natural light without the use of CGI which made the life of working crew worse than hell as some parts of shooting in Canada met unexpected fall in temperature to -25C. During the times when Canada met shortage of snow, the whole shooting was in fact shifted to Argentina. This showed life-and-death commitment to present ‘REALISM’ in the picture for which they crossed most of the limits.
The director himself stated in one interview to prefer natural light over CGI this way, “Everybody was frozen, the equipment was breaking; to get the camera from one place to another was a nightmare. If we ended up in green screen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of shit.”
There is no dispute after hard sacrifice in the beauty of making this movie. When the viewers watch this in one frame, the presentation is natural and folking brilliant. Like Birdman, we will again watch some spectacular lengthy one-shot scenes confirming AGI directional class.
Besides deserving award-winning direction, the whole movie is also build on two powerful performances. Tom Hardy’s character of Fitzgerald is foxy and full of rage who opposes Glass’ advice to abandon the vessel and march on foot after Native Americans’ attack. He digs reasons to oppose him and watch for a better moment to kill him. I would say Glass/Fitz are the bestest combination of plus and minus whose characters are made to oppose each other. Despite many inaccuracies in the movie, Hardy’s character gives reasons of bringing balance between the two. Being in limelight of his career, Tom Hardy has another well-reputed performance in his CV. Due to much change in locations and shooting dates, Tom Hardy left a well-fitted Suicide Squad role of Rick Flag character to complete The Revenant without delay.
Leonardo DiCaprio ended his long-curse in Oscar functions by finally winning an Academy Award for Best Actor for his leading role in the movie. He has many marvelous performances to his acting credits and easily is one of the greatest actors of his generation to have worked with many great directors like Scorsese, Spielberg, Tarantino, Nolan, Eastwood, Mendes, Scott, Allen, Boyle and Cameron which is quite rare in any filmography.
Keeping his whole acting career under scrutiny, it is easy to pick this role as the toughest of all the roles he has done in the past. The portrayal is highly physical than his dialogues. All judgment is based on his survival mode where he drops himself into icy water, eating raw bison liver (LDC is vegetarian btw) and sleeping in horse carcass. He even wore that bear skin in most of the scenes which was real and brought from a park department in Canada. More to a misery, the skin weighted over 100 pounds. And while attempting all such dares, he maintained his acting stance. Full marks to his performance.
The Revenant is the answer to the finest filmmaking. Decades later, critics will easily pick this movie among the best things happened in cinematic industry. I would like to congrats the whole crew for the perfect and deserving outcome. Also I would like to pay my special thanks to the readers who reached here reading a whole lengthy review till the conclusion. Perhaps some special movies deserve a lot of writing.
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