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Movie Night – 'Revenant' is survival in bleak, brutal form (Jan. 13, 2016 issue)

Revenant: one that returns after death. That definition explains the plot of “The Revenant” in a nutshell. It’s not your average movie that is based on a true story, yet moviegoers are still flocking to the theater to watch this highly-anticipated release.
In 1823 a group of frontiersmen and fur trappers set out for Montana on a fur-trapping expedition. Their leader is Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), an honorable man who is in charge of a ragtag group of hunters, trappers, and lowlifes. Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the expedition’s guide. He knows this undiscovered territory better than any other white man and is charged with guiding the group safely into the wilderness and back out once they have all the pelts they can carry.
After a successful trip the members of the expedition are packing the pelts to be loaded on their boat. They are headed downriver to civilization so they can unload their pelts and collect their money. As the team is preparing to leave they are attacked by an angry group of Native Americans from the Arikara tribe. They are looking for one of their own who was taken from them.
A small group of the trappers are able to escape, including Captain Henry, Glass, Glass’s Pawnee son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Shortly after their escape Glass is brutally mauled by grizzly bear. Glass is at death’s door and they can’t get him to safety in his condition. For a sizable reward Fitzgerald agrees to stay with Glass, Hawk, and another member of the team until Glass dies and he can receive a proper burial.
Fitzgerald, fearing that the Arikara will attack at any time, attempts to put Glass out of his misery, but before he can complete the task he is caught by Hawk. Fitzgerald murders Hawk and leaves glass for dead after dumping him in a shallow grave. Unfortunately for Fitzgerald, Glass is not dead. He refuses to die before he has his vengeance.
There are three classic plots to stories the world over: love, money, and revenge. Just about every book or movie can be broken down into one of those three categories. “The Revenant” is a classic tale of revenge at its most elemental and brutal. There are many graphic and disturbing scenes that are not for the timid. The attack by the Arikara and the bear attack are both amazing scenes, yet depict savagery.
The scenery in the movie is bleak, yet indescribably beautiful. Scene after scene will take your breath away with the majesty of the mountains, rivers, waterfalls, forests, and snow that falls throughout the movie. It’s some of the best scenery ever captured on film and is one of the best parts of the movie.
During the filming of the movie Leonardo DiCaprio endured brutal conditions to accurately portray the odds that were stacked against Glass. While DiCaprio didn’t have many lines to memorize for the part, his physical acting was top-notch. You could almost feel his pain. At the same time, Tom Hardy was so good as the villain that you despise him and cheer for his death.
The only real negative about “The Revenant” is that it’s just too long. Instead of two hours and thirty-six minutes, the movie could have been cut by at least half an hour without compromising the plot. The filmmakers seemed obsessed with showing bleak scene after bleak scene after bleak scene when fewer scenes and maybe a little more action would have been better.
“The Revenant” is an epic tale of survival and revenge. It’s raw, graphic, brutal, and (most of all) entertaining.
Grade: B+
Rated R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity.