A revenant, according to Mr. Webster, is “one that returns after death or a long absence.”
In other words, just about every superhero in comics.
Just kidding, although you would have to be pretty much super human to survive everything Leonardo DiCaprio’s character goes through in the new Western, “The Revenant.”
DiCaprio stars as Hugh Glass, a real-life frontiersman and trapper who went through an ordeal that would make Odysseus think twice and stay home. I have a feeling Michael Punke (who wrote the book the film is partially based on), screenwriter Mark L. Smith and screenwriter/ director Alejandro G.Inarritu took some liberties in telling Glass’ tale. Whether more fact or fiction, “The Revenant” is a gripping tale of survival and revenge.
As the film opens, Glass is serving as guide to a company of fur trappers exploring the wilderness of 1823 America. When they are attacked by a band of Indians, Glass, his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), and about a dozen others escape on a boat.
A few miles downstream, Glass convinces the head of the expedition, Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), that they are too exposed on the water. They go back inland where Glass promises to lead them back to civilization.
And he probably would’ve made good on that promise if he hadn’t run into a couple of bear cubs and their momma while scouting ahead. In a brutally vicious scene that’s sure to leave audiences gasping and talking about it later, the bear mauls Glass — over and over.
By the time the rest of his company show up, Glass is in sorry shape with multiple broken bones and deep gashes all over his body. The group tries to forge on carrying Glass on a makeshift stretcher but it’s clear they’ll never get across the mountains with this load.
Henry decides the best move is for the men to go on ahead and send help back for Glass. Hawk and another young man, Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), agree to stay behind with Glass. Henry doesn’t want to leave the two boys alone with a man who’s sure to die soon anyway, so he asks for another volunteer to stay. John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who up to this point has done nothing but complain, agrees to stay on the promise of a big cash reward.
It doesn’t take long for Fitzgerald to decide to leave Glass alone to die and collect the reward money anyway. Hawk’s refusal to play along has fatal consequences. But even though Fitzgerald makes it back to camp, he has no idea that the man he left for dead has an indomitable will to survive and have his vengeance.
“The Revenant” is beautifully shot and brilliantly acted. While DiCaprio is getting most of the applause for his broke-down-and-dirty performance, I found Hardy to be equally compelling. The supporting cast all do fine work as well.
Perhaps the biggest star of the movie is nature itself. Whether it’s a bear protecting its cubs, wolves attacking a herd of buffalo, the majestic mountains, the raging waters, or the trees that go on forever, “The Revenant” bears witness to the beauty and harsh reality of an untamed world.