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DVD Review: The Revenant


DVD Review: The Revenant

By Diane McCurdy

The films that were nominated for best picture are now slowly becoming ubiquitously accessible through streaming, on demand or DVD. The Revenant is one of those. The title itself has sent many to their dictionaries. Folkloric in origin, basically it refers to a corpse that has been reanimated and come back to haunt the living, a ghost. Hugh Glass, or more specifically Leonardo DiCaprio, is the revenant and the grueling Odyssey he portrays was inspired by actual events. DiCaprio received an Oscar for his efforts. He deserved a medal, at least, for what he had to go through from eating raw liver to being submerged for hours in icy water and floundering in prodigious piles of snow. The film itself had so many obstacles to overcome that it was compared to the legendary trials and tribulations of Apocalypse Now. Mostly shot in Canada, the location for some scenes was Argentina as the company desperately chased after snow. The landscape reflects a terrible, pristine beauty. Cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, who had previously won awards for Gravity and Birdman also snagged one for this feature. He uses all natural light which adds a realistic element. Kleig lights distance the audience with an artificial Hollywood veneer.

Hugh Glass, the main character, in this frontier drama signs on to guide a group of fur traders through the rugged Great Plains. It is the early 1800’s. While reconnoitering he encounters a mother bear whose maternal instincts rise to protect her cubs. She mauls Glass and he is left mortally wounded. The Group carries him for a while but when it becomes obvious that his death is imminent, a trader, Tom Hardy, is delegated to stay behind along with Glass’s half-breed son. The intent is to give him a decent burial . Hardy has always had a grudge against Glass so he decides to hasten the death process. When his son tries to intercede, Hardy kills the kid and dumps the half-dead father in a shallow grave. Miraculously Glass survives and bloody, beaten, with fetid, infected sores and icicles dangling from his beard he begins his brutal via dolorosa as he seeks revenge. In this case, served very cold. 

It has taken half the film’s screen time to get this far. When he reaches camp and thereby reveals the treachery of his adversary who left him for dead this spurs a second quest, the first was for survival the second is for blood. DiCaprio is the epitome of strength and resilience. His antagonist is a demonic psycho, both are equally determined. Some may find the journey difficult, indeed harrowing but if you can stick it out until the end you will appreciate the film’s artistry.  Alejandro G. Innaritu won an Academy Award this year for his direction of The Revenant.