Monday, 18 January 2016

The Revenant (4½ Stars)

This is a remake of the 1971 film, "Man in the Wilderness", based on the story of Hugh Glass, who was left for dead by his fellow hunters and walked 200 miles back to Fort Kiowa in South Dakota.

In 1823 Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) was acting as guide for a group of trappers who were gathering beaver pelts. While on their way back to Fort Kiowa they are ambushed by Indians who kill about half of the hunting party and steal the beaver pelts. They decide to return to the fort empty-handed. On the way Hugh is attacked by a grizzly bear. He's left barely alive, and the others are unsure whether to carry him back or shoot him to put him out of his suffering. The final decision is that volunteers should remain with him while the others return. The volunteers should wait to see if he recovers, and then either bring him back or bury him. Hugh's son Hawk and two other trappers stay with him.

Since the volunteers will receive the same payment whether Hugh lives or dies, one of the volunteers, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), decides to kill him as soon as the others have left. Hawk tried to defend his father, but John murders him. John makes his way back to the fort with the third volunteer, who didn't witness the murder, leaving Hugh tied up and left to die.

Miraculously, Hugh manages to free himself. Despite his massive injuries he makes his way back to the fort, partly on foot, partly on horseback after stealing a horse from a French camp. The only thing keeping him alive is his quest for revenge for the murder of his son.

Visually, this is an amazing film. The snow-covered mountains of America have a bizarre beauty. The film shows what the Wild West was really like in the early 19th Century. It wasn't all about gunslingers in shanty towns. It was also about a battle for survival, against the fierce weather, against Indian tribes and against French settlers who disagreed with France selling their land to the USA in 1803. It's not just two sides against one another. The battle lines are blurred and alliances shift.

"The Revenant" was recently nominated for 12 awards at the 2016 Academy Awards, more than any other film. Let's see if it succeeds in winning the Best Film award.

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