sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Revenant (movie review)

Beware, spoilers below at the bottom of this review.

Plot Overview:
In 1820s America, frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) joins a pelt-gathering expedition along with his teenage son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). When attacks by Arikara Indians claim the lives of many of the men in the party, Glass leads a small group on a new path back to a U.S. fort. While attempting to hunt game on the journey, Glass is mauled by a grizzly bear and horribly wounded. Assumed he'll be dead soon, Glass is left under the care of roughneck John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), and the young and inexperienced Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) as Hawk watches on in horror. Fitzgerald betrays Glass and leaves him for dead, alone and unarmed. Glass nurses himself back to health and charts a course of revenge. Alejandro González Iñárritu directed this pulse-pounding epic.
Critic Reviews: 80% Positive
Rotten Tomatoes Review: 81% Positive
My Rating: 6.5 out of a possible 10. I depart downward from the critics for reasons set forth in the spoilers.

Chick Flick: No
Embraces Progressive Theme: Sort of (spoiler below)
Unicorns and Rainbows: No

Leonardo Di Caprio, a puffed-up, progressive, ponce off the screen, did a good job in portraying a fierce man in a fierce era. I think that he has racked up a number of good acting credits in his career.

The History:
(Wikipedia) In August 1823, near the forks of the Grand River in present-day Perkins County, South Dakota, while scouting for game for the expedition's larder, Hugh Glass surprised a sow grizzly bear with two cubs. The bear charged, picked him up, and threw him to the ground. Glass managed to kill the bear with help from his trapping partners, Fitzpatrick and Bridger, but was left badly mauled and unconscious. Ashley (who was also with them) became convinced he would not survive his injuries. 
Ashley asked for two volunteers to stay with Glass until he died, and then bury him. Jim Bridger (then 19 years old) and Fitzpatrick (then 23 years old) stepped forward, and as the rest of the party moved on, began digging his grave. Later claiming that they were interrupted by attacking Indians, the pair grabbed Glass's rifle, knife, and other equipment, and took flight. Bridger and Fitzpatrick later caught up with the party and incorrectly reported to Ashley that Glass had died. There is a debate whether Jim Bridger was one of the men who abandoned Hugh Glass.

Despite his injuries, Glass regained consciousness, but found himself abandoned, without weapons or equipment. He had festering wounds, a broken leg, and cuts on his back that exposed bare ribs. Glass lay mutilated and alone, more than 200 miles (320 km) from the nearest American settlement at Fort Kiowa on the Missouri River. Glass set his own leg, wrapped himself in the bear hide his companions had placed over him as a shroud, and began crawling. To prevent gangrene, Glass laid his wounded back on a rotting log and let maggots eat his dead flesh. 
Glass crawled overland south to the Cheyenne River where he fashioned a crude raft and floated downstream to Fort Kiowa. The journey took him six weeks. He survived mostly on wild berries and roots; on one occasion he was able to drive two wolves from a downed bison calf, and feast on the meat. Glass was aided by friendly Native Americans who sewed a bear hide to his back to cover the exposed wounds and provided him with food and weapons. 
Glass was thereafter referred to as "the revenant," from the 19th century French verb revenant, meaning someone who returns from a long absence, or a person or thing reborn.

  • The film shows a sow grizzly with two new-born cubs in the winter. (a) bears give birth in the spring. (b) bears hibernate in the winter.  You'll note in the historical account above, the attack took place in AUGUST.
  • The historical Glass was about the age that his half-indian/white son was in the movie - and he was too young to have a son who was more than a couple years old. They were very young men in a land where men didn't live long unless they were very tough.
  • The film shows three bull elk in the dead of winter with antlers...late autumn maybe, but not winter.
  • The film has recurrent errors in the way it portrays Indians and white men. The white men are bad, the Indians are good. It shows Indian villages laid waste by soldiers. The truth is that Indian tribes historically and certainly in this era did not have the numbers to engage 50 heavily armed white trappers as the movie portrays, and they could not afford the losses of men that would certainly result from that. In that era, it was the European diseases that ravaged indian villages, not foraging armies. But Hollywood must remain true to its revisionist bent.
  • Most of the trappers in that era carried muskets and musketoons, not rifles. Muskets load quicker than rifles (see the trick of just tapping the butt of the musket on the ground to seat the bullet with out a ramrod, in combat).
  • Hugh Glass' journey took place in Missouri, in the mid-late summer. It was filmed in very high mountains in the deep winter...
  • The first hour of the film was interesting. The last 1 1/2 hours dragged. It's a long movie.
  • It wasn't Dances with Wolves or Avatar (Dances with Wolves in outer space), but the the theme was politically correct, which means not historical. (For the record, I enjoyed Avatar, but it's still Dances with Wolves, in space)
  • There may be more spoilers. I can't recall more, but there was no effort to portray anything but a story "inspired by true events".
Mountain Man Films: Though it is an old movie, Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford), a take off of John Johnson, the Crow Killer is a better and even more historical (sorta) rendition than The Revenant. The book, Crow Killer, The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson, is highly recommended.