Randy's Review: 'The Revenant'

Thursday, January 14, 2016

You think winter here stinks?

Set in 1823 Montana and South Dakota, the semi-biographical tale offers up a story of revenge which, as we all know, is best served cold. And I mean cold. You think we've had some unpleasant weather.

The movie shares the story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), part of a fur trapping excursion who, after collecting an adequate number of pelts are preparing to head back to their base of operations when they are attacked by the Arikara Indian tribe. After fighting and losing a majority of the group, several survivors board a boat and flee down the river. Among them Glass, the team's lead tracker; his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) who is half-Indian; the party's leader Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson); self-interested Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy); Bridges (Will Poulter) and a few other "lucky ones." Bloodied and wounded, the group -- at Glass' suggestion -- dump the boat and go by foot over the snowy terrain to try and lose the Arikara party hunting them.

Fitzgerald disagrees with the decision to leave the boat but follows the Captain's orders while other members of the group stay with the boat ... and are later killed downstream by the angry Indian travelers in search of a woman who had been abducted from them by a group of white men.

Wandering in the snow-packed woods, battling the snow storms, wind and associated elements, Glass, under constant verbal assault from Fitzgerald, is charged with leading them to safety. While Glass is out ahead of the group searching for safe passage, he encounters a threatened mother grizzly bear. The savage and repeated assault by the bear leaves Glass torn to pieces and clinging to life when the rest of the group comes across him. Despite Fitzgerald's objections, the group attempts to bring him along, carrying his broken and battered body, across the difficult to navigate mountainous terrain.

Eventually they can take him no further and he is left with Fitzgerald, Bridges and Hawk who are to wait until he dies and then provide him with proper burial. Tired of waiting for Glass to die on his own, Fitzgerald puts plans in place to end his life and leave him for dead.

You know what they say about the best laid plans. The rest of the film details Glass' slow, painful recovery. Alone in the wilderness, with just his thirst for revenge to motivate him, Glass continues the journey, surviving any way he can with the Arikara still on his trail.

The movie is brutal but brilliant. Perhaps DiCaprio's finest work, where often he's forced to use facial expressions to convey his fear, anger, pain and grief as the bear attack left him unable to speak for quite some time. Both he and Hardy -- unrecognizable as Fitzgerald -- deserve their Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. The film itself has picked up double-digit Oscar nods, including Best Picture and Best Director for Alejandro Inarritu.

My one gripe is a continuing one that all of these "masterpiece" projects share. It is too long. At nearly 2 hours, 40 minutes, I never found myself bored or checking my watch -- but the everlasting panoramic scenery shots don't need to take a minute when a 15- or 20-second pop will do. I get it, it's vast and desolate. The wind is blowing and snow is flying. The snow is beginning to melt and drip. A few seconds to lead into the scene is plenty. A minute of studying this stuff is overkill. I imagine you could bring this thing down closer to two hours by just shortening some of those nonrelevant moments.

* On a scale of 5 popcorn buckets, "The Revenant" loads up 4 buckets of warm popcorn which will help you forget about the terrible cold on the screen. But you better eat through it quickly because once the main character is forced to start finding food to eat in the wilderness, you might find your hunger somewhat disturbed. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 2 hours, 36 minutes. This film was reviewed at Southpark 7 in Spencer.