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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Revenant | Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Forrest Goodluck, Will Poulter, Paul Anderson, Lukas Haas, Melaw Nakehk’o, Anthony Starlight | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
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The Revenant | Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Forrest Goodluck, Will Poulter, Paul Anderson, Lukas Haas, Melaw Nakehk’o, Anthony Starlight | Review

Revenant - [rev-uh-nuh nt] noun  1. a person who returns. 2. a person who returns as a spirit after death; ghost.

Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a revenant.  After a vicious animal attack, he is left for dead by several of his party of hunter/trappers in the South Dakota wilderness.  Glass has been ripped nearly to shreds by a protective mama grizzly bear and is so near death, that one of the men charged with caring for him (Tom Hardy) trumps up a lie to hasten his demise – and then kills his son (Forrest Goodluck) while he (Glass) watches helplessly.  The badly scarred Glass drags himself over 200 miles to seek revenge on his deserters in an arduous, pain-filled trek.  The year is 1823.

His is a journey of few words, extreme discomfort, hunger that leads him to eat living fish and raw bison liver, and slice open a dead horse for shelter.  His wounds fester, his body trembles with exertion, and his resolve comes from visions of his (years ago) murdered Pawnee wife and recently murdered son, memories that fuel his determination.
 
In this near-lawless frontier world, greed is still king in a monarchy that includes savagery, rape, murder, and betrayal.  Life is hard; snow runs red.  So-called “civilized” humans are fueled by profit, hatred and fear, while indigenous ones retaliate with a sense of outrage.  Natural beauty and unnatural man-made ugliness abound.

On the run, both hunter and hunted, crudely stitched up, periodically bleeding from massive wounds, and on the brink of starvation, Glass is driven and sustained by a sorrow that is outweighed by vengeance.  In writer/director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s (Birdman) hands, the viewer is involved in the journey to the point of tactile participation, made to feel the pain and the cold that Glass experiences.

Iñárritu delivers  every injury and bodily insult experienced by Glass as he travels semi-clad through snowy woods and icy rivers, crossing rapids , and staging his own astonishing ambush of French fur trappers who have kidnapped an Arikara chief’s daughter (Melaw Nakehk’o).  That chief (Anthony Starlight) and his warriors are in pursuit as well, and Glass crosses paths with them periodically on his treacherous, lonely, journey.  The danger of being scalped is very real.

The Revenant is a most uncomfortable film, and a most astounding one, conveying the misery and majesty of the period through Glass’s ordeal, juxtaposed against pristine, snow-covered landscapes and waterways. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, using only natural light, produces outstanding visuals from locations in Canada and Argentina.
 
Loosely adapted from Michael Punke’s* 2002 novel, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, the film’s script, co-written by Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith (The Hole) bestows Glass with a half-Pawnee son whose murder he must avenge, ramping up the visceral impact.  Allegedly, the real Glass wanted only his stolen property returned; here, Glass mourns the loss of an offspring rather than simply the retrieval of a canteen.  The script also adds a mystical dimension to his near-superhuman endurance amid unflinching austerity.  All of it packs a ferocious cinematic punch.

DiCaprio’s performance is astounding as the disheveled and determined Glass, who very nearly matches the Bible’s Job in physical challenges.  Hardy is devious and deadly, probably the most accurate portrayal of a greedy, fearful, and flawed human in the fact-based tale.  A superb supporting cast, including Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Paul Anderson, and Lukas Haas, brings the era to life with gritty, believable performances.

The Revenant is an unflinching, arduous excursion, one you won’t soon leave behind.

 *Fact  - As  Deputy United States Trade Representative and U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, author Michael Punke is barred from promoting his own book.  He can’t sign a single copy or even discuss it.  Here, Iñárritu and DiCaprio address that restriction in (not) so many words.

 

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