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Adrift in the Snow: The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio-Revenant-2-680          A
relentlessly brutal saga of survival and revenge set in the wintry wilderness
of the American West, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant is an impressive piece of work, but frankly, it left
me cold (pun unavoidable). I can’t deny the impressive physical achievement the
director and his gifted cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, have created under
the most severe conditions imaginable, but I’d rather watch the making-of
documentary than the picture itself.

          Pundits have
been predicting an Academy Award for Leonardo DiCaprio since springtime, and he
doesn’t disappoint, delivering a rugged performance as a native guide that
bespeaks a level of commitment any actor would be proud of. He is matched by an
almost-unrecognizable Tom Hardy (sporting a perfect American accent) as a
conniving trapper. They are completely credible as mortal enemies who will not
give in until the last breath has left their bodies.

Tom Hardy-Revenant-1-680

          But this
movie begs the question of when the dramatization of an ordeal becomes an
ordeal in itself. There are staggering moments in The Revenant that no one who sees it is likely to forget, but they
come at a price: having to sit through a long, unforgiving narrative that, like
its leading characters, doesn’t know when enough is enough.

          I also have
a serious issue with a key plot point in the film, when an officer played by
Domhnall Gleeson puts his trust in a character who has shown himself to be
unreliable if not downright scummy. Not only does this make no sense, it
undermines the rest of the story.

          I don’t mean to minimize the work
that went into this film, but Oscars shouldn’t be handed out on the basis of an
actor’s (or director’s) endurance skills. Or, for that matter, a moviegoer’s

9 comments

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Back in the day, Mr. Maltin said that "All Is Lost" wore him out and that film was only about 105 minutes. Films with intense survival struggle seem to tax him quite a bit.

  2. Adrian Fish says:

    There seems to be another very key plot issue I cant seem to get past, the main Indian Leader is looking for his daughter but then trades horses with the frenchmen that already had his daughter, am I correct? It seems this was left completely unexplained.

  3. Jeffrey says:

    No, I think you might be hedging there. It’s not obvious as to when the Indian leader’s daughter fell into captivity. Mr. Maltin’s attempt to question the credibility of the plot is really weak in my opinion. People make poor decisions under stress all the time and a movie’s plot can plausibly take that route.

  4. John says:

    The plot sure does remind me of Man in the Wilderness, the 1971 film with Richard Harris.

  5. Jan says:

    It was beautifully shot AND a slog. When the audience started laughing during serious scenes, it was obvious they had lost interest.

  6. Archie Merwin says:

    In the actual event upon which this film (and book before it) was based there were two men left in charge of Glas. One was a young boy Jim Bridger who would later become a celebrated mountain man hero. The other was Fitzgerald. Both of these men abandoned Glas leaving him for dead. So since it really happened then it has to be believable. The only out for Maltin is that perhaps Fitzgerald hid his low-life qualities from the leader and thus was trusted when he shouldn’t have been.

  7. Paul says:

    Just saw the film. Read this and Kenneth Turan’s reviews and i was pleased that someone else (and someone(s) of such stature!) agreed this was not the film i had expected. it actually held my focus but i had a repeated thought (which I recognize later) that i was watching a movie with some predictability, i.e. staying alive inside a horse, going off a cliff into a fir tree. and there there is the fogged up camera lens form actors breathe. i could go on but i.m thinking the director could well have meant it to a good movie in its genre, a western.

  8. Lanny says:

    Yes, Man in the Wilderness was based on the same true story. But that film came to a conclusion that pleased no one. The Revenant, at least, has a more satisfying finale.

  9. Bjørn Helge says:

    *Spoilers* I had just seen Man in the Wilderness without knowing what this was about. I found it gross most of the time, but there was also some impressive physical stuff in it. The Revenant added some plot points that were unnecessary and went nowhere. Being half-buried alive is reason to want to crawl back for revenge, the story didn’t need the dead son. The visions of his dead wife didn’t lead to anything. The motivation of the frenchmen and most of the natives was ill-defined. Furthermore, Leo’s threshold of pain seemed to go up and down a bit, nd I couldn’t read much of a story on his face. The bear sequence was great, though.

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