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NEWBIES: If this is your first trip here (welcome!), here’s the QT on what these reviews are.
THIS WEEK: THIS WEEK: The Oscar-nominated performance of Leonardo DeCaprio as frontiersman/explorer Hugh Glass, in a Hollywood account of his early 1820s expedition in the upper Missouri River (Montana/Dakotas) with his (fictional?) half-breed son and a bunch of trappers employed by General William Ashley and the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Glass gets mauled by a bear, robbed and left for dead, recovers and pursues his target, Tom “Mad Max/Bane” Hardy as mean John Fitzgerald. (There’s more but this is a no-spoiler review, remember?) BTW, “revenant” means “One who has returned, especially from the dead.” (Sounds better to the Academy than “zombie).
Trailer (SPOILER ALERT—most of the plot is told here, up to the pursuit):
- Directed by the same dude who did Birdman, with the same cinematographer (Emmanuel Lubezki ) from Birdman and Gravity, the visuals and scenery are stunning, gorgeous, amazing and any other word that means breathtaking. The wilderness takes on an other-worldly quality, at times becoming a character in itself.
- Camera work, angles, all that fancy and technical stuff, is awesome (MIKE: Some nice use of short lenses to exaggerate perspective too). There are a bunch of 180/360-degree shots that, while some might think are overused, really put you in the scene (FROM MIKE: He means “ it’s immersive”), especially in the battle and woods scenes.
- While I don’t know crap about the 1820s American frontier, the fur trade, the French or Native Americans of any tribe, it all seemed very authentic and believable. Customs, rivalries, language, terminology, accents, equipment, clothing, etc.
- Good story. While a couple things confused me (especially regarding whereabouts of locations and characters in relation to each other), the plot and story were clearly told and kept you involved, despite the length of the flick.
- Great effects. The main one being the bear, of course, which is very believable, right down to feeling its hot, heavy, nasty breath. Crazy how well it’s integrated with the scene.
- For once, the Oscar noms are right: the performances, especially DeCaprio’s, Hardy’s and Will “Maze Runner” Poulter as Jim Bridger, are some of the best in a long time. Those guys are scary good—even more so when you realize Hardy and Poulter are Brits! (Props as well to newcomer Forest Goodluck—talk about an Indian name—who plays Glass’s son, Hawk.) After Leo gets mauled, you feel every wince, grimace, growl and scream of pain.
- Completely out-of-the-blue Star Wars tribute/homage.
- Pawnee Indians come off as good guys. The expedition (aka “Ashley’s Hundred”) has at least one black guy on staff.
- If you’re bummed about the Seahawks losing in the playoffs (or pretty much anything else), this will make you forget about it, at least for a couple hours. Having your team lose is still a bunch better than getting ripped apart by a bear and left in a shallow grave in the frozen wilderness.
- One of the too few flicks that has a satisfactory payback.
- Couple nice twists of ingenuity. Survival (and lust for revenge) makes you think of some clever things.
- SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF DEPT.: No one apparently heard of hypothermia or frost bite. Or infection. And DeCaprio’s character could be the next Wolverine for his super-recuperating powers. (We’re not given any kind of timeline, but it seems pretty quick.) In the “true” story, though (which was largely passed down orally and written by third parties), Glass supposedly had flesh torn off his hip, breath escaped from both sides of his windpipe and had exposed bones on his back. To escape gangrene, he allegedly lied on rotting logs to let maggots eat the infected flesh—which for some reason was not shown in the movie. Friendly Indians later sewed a bear hide to his back to cover his wounds (also not in the flick). So who knows?
- I didn’t get much info on anything or anyone. The attacking Indians are the Arikara, but only called “the Ree.” I had no idea what river or even what state or what time period the story happened in, until I looked them up on Wikipedia and other sites. (Which, if you have time, is worth it; what little facts there are of the actual events are pretty interesting.)
- No hot naked Pocahantases.
- Different tribes of Indians were as much jerks to each other as the Americans and French were to the Indians. And the French were jerks to the Americans. Many of the frontiersmen were jerks to each other. And most of the men of all of them were jerks to the women. (A ton of jerks around back then.)
- One of the characters does a Mike Tyson.
- Some of the gore is too gross to watch, especially if you’re eating. And there’s some intense violence, as well as a rape scene, though thankfully the latter is quick and mostly off-camera. Sensitive viewers be warned.
- The stuff you’re willing to eat when you’re starving—especially raw, when there’s a fire 10 feet away. (See also In The Heart Of The Sea.)
- At over 2.5 hours, they could have trimmed some of the trippy flashbacks. We got the idea early on and I don’t think all the later ones were necessary or should have gone on as long.
You could wait for cable/streaming or rental, but you’d rob yourself of the visual impact of the scenery. But you’d also be able to fast forward through the nasty/slow bits. I’m going with RENT IT just because I had to get up and pee and I didn’t want to miss anything. And I saw it in a theater with a dirty screen that kept taking me out of the story. You’d be good either way. Though it’s the type of film I probably wouldn’t see again, it’s definitely worth it once.
P.S.: Start the year off with some ORIGINAL ART! Get a commission from Pascale of anything or anyone ya want. Way better than being mauled by a bear. Just tell Craig here!
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of Wednesday’s Heroes, Mike Pascale, the Pawnee, the Arikara, the Sioux, the French, frontiersmen, fur trappers, or angry bears. Bru assures us he could survive just like DeCaprio if he had enough beer and pretzels. And if he were instead mauled by a hamster.