Granger on Movies: ‘The Revenant’
In 1823, frontier scout Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) set out to explore the uncharted northern Missouri River area. When he and his fur-trapping cohorts are near what is now Lemmon, S.D., Glass is savagely mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead.
According to the dictionary: “Revenant” means one who returns from the dead, so it’s quite apt to describe stoic Glass, who not only survives but is determined to wreak revenge against those who abandoned him and killed his teenage half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck).
En route to Fort Kiowa, tormented Glass resolutely makes his way on foot through the harsh, frigid wilderness, dodging Arikara tribesmen searching for a chief’s kidnapped daughter. The collateral damage inflicted by encroaching white men on the spiritual culture of America’s indigenous people is thematic.
And if you thought Alejandro G. Inarritu’s bitterly sardonic, Oscar-winning “Birdman” (2014) was obtuse, this perilous epic is even more so, as cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki finds primordial symbolism in the rugged landscape, using all-natural lighting.
Filled with sadistic, gruesome gore, the ultra-realistic adventure (shot in Canada and Argentina) is certainly the most bluntly brutal, visceral and visually striking movie of the year.
DiCaprio delivers a punishing, physical performance with Tom Hardy as despicable John Fitzgerald. Their apocryphal story is based on true events and a legendary explorer’s tale, chronicled in Michael Punke’s “The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge” (2002).
Punke’s extensive research revealed that, defending their territory, the aggrieved Arikara did attack the Rocky Mountain Fur Trading Co.’s boats, killing 13 people and wounding others.
FYI: Early bloggers erroneously reported that DiCaprio was raped by a bear. Not true — when Glass inadvertently gets between a huge female and her cubs, she viciously attacks him. And when you see him devour a slab of raw liver, it’s for real. DiCaprio told Variety, “It’s like a balloon. When you bite into it, it bursts in your mouth.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Revenant” is an eerie, elemental, exhausting 8, making “Deliverance” look like a walk in the park.