Saturday movie review: The Revenant

THE REVENANT starring Leonardo DiCaprio is violent, bloody, gory, graphic, and difficult to watch — so much so at times that I had to look away or close my eyes.

It's also one of the best movies I've seen in a long time and, as one grandma friend eloquently put it, has "so much beauty, compassion, cleverness, humor.....a heart full of love and loyalty."

the revenant movie 

Despite its graphic nature, THE REVENANT immediately drew me in then kept me fully absorbed and engaged for its full 156-minute run. Once over and the credits rolled, I had to literally catch my breath and take a moment to recover from a cinematic experience so visceral I felt I'd been put through the wringer.

THE REVENANT is an adventure-survival film based on the book The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke, inspired by true events endured by fur-trapper Hugh Glass in 1823. Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Glass in a powerful performance that has already earned him a Golden Globe nomination and which surely must lead to an Oscar nomination and, I'm betting, an Oscar win at last.

Directed and co-written by acclaimed filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñárritu (BABEL, 21 GRAMS, and others, including BIRDMAN — his only film I've disliked), THE REVENANT shows in close-up, unflinchingly graphic yet cinematically breathtaking detail the horrors Glass went through. The tragic loss of the beloved mother of his young son which left Glass fervently committed to caring for his Pawnee son, now on the brink of adulthood. The brutal attack by Indians on Glass and his mates from Fort Kiowa while he led them on a fur gathering expedition. The even more horrendous mauling by a bear which left Glass mangled and near death. Then the mistreatment and other horrors at the hands of John Fitzgerald (chameleon actor Tom Hardy) — who agreed to earn extra pay by staying behind the hunting party to care for Glass until his inevitable death — which resulted in Glass seeking revenge despite seemingly insurmountable odds and obstacles.


DiCaprio was amazing. He became Glass, had no trace whatsoever of Leo in his performance. A physical performance with very few words. His grimace and groans, pain and persistence in seeking pay back while struggling through continual assaults by nature and bad guys — as well as his beautiful expression of a father's love — made this my favorite role of his. Ever. This quote from the film served as inspiration for Glass to keep on keeping on: "As long as you can still grab a breath you fight." I imagine it had to have been on DiCaprio's mind again and again as he gave his all to the brutal-beyond-belief role.

Tom Hardy played the primary nemesis of Glass. When Hardy first appeared on screen, I looked over at my oldest daughter, one of my screening mates, and mouthed, "I love him." And I do indeed love the man's versatile acting chops. Tom Hardy is one of my favorite actors. He has played such a spectrum of characters, all complex, all believable, most of them being folks who are good at heart but end up doing bad things for justifiable reasons. This time his character, Fitzgerald, was just plain bad to the core. Very bad, for no reason. And Hardy once again did it believably, so much so that I absolutely detested the man — an admirable feat when I adore Hardy as much as I do.

Another actor I was pleased to see in THE REVENANT was Domhnall Gleeson, whose career seems to be taking off and whom I especially enjoyed in UNBROKEN and ABOUT TIME (he's also been in a few Harry Potter films but I've not watched those). He played Captain Andrew Henry with strength and heart and held his own in scenes with both DiCaprio and Hardy.

More on the surprisingly beautiful and engrossing (and, yes, bloody and brutal) film:

THE REVENANT (Rated R "for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity") opened in limited theaters in December is now playing everywhere. Find out more on the film's official website.