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  Revenant, The Test Of EnduranceBuy this film here.
Year: 2015
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Paul Anderson, Kristoffer Joner, Joshua Burge, Duane Howard, Melaw Nakehk'o, Fabrice Adde, Lukas Haas, Grace Dove, Arthur RedCloud, Christopher Rosamond, Brendan Fletcher
Genre: Western
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a fur trapper in the North America of the eighteen-twenties, and he throws himself into his work because that's the only way you'll get by in this profession, it is strictly for the toughest hombres around who are willing to brave the frontier lands. That means getting by as the elements take their toll, and now with winter approaching he and his fellow trappers have made their deals to supply animal pelts, so all is left for them to do is catch them and gather their skins. However, there is another danger to their livelihood, and indeed their lives, for a tribe of local Indians have been jealously guarding their territory and consider the white man's incursion on their lands with anger, to the point of staging massacres...

Star Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his Best Actor Oscar for his role as the real life unfortunate Glass, undoubtedly because of his incredible endurance in hostile circumstances to get the film finished, which by all accounts was not an easy task thanks to the weather and countryside turning against them. If they gave out those gongs for the sheer physical punishment a performer has to go through, then he absolutely deserved it, and they probably do, but though it was a strong contender for following up director Alejandro González Iñárritu's Best Picture Winner Birdman with another winner of that Academy Award, it was ultimately pipped at the post by Spotlight. Though The Revenant had its fans, there were grumblers who remained unconvinced.

If anything, this could be regarded as too basic in its storyline, though as part of the Western genre it belonged to, and which was enjoying a revival around its time, it was more adhering to an uncomplicated plot motivation, in this case revenge, to propel its main character onwards, which was a plot that had served countless in its style. Often the more so-called grown-up Westerns of the fifties were alluded to in these twenty-first century returns to what had been the most popular example of movies for decades, when they were not imitating the casual brutalities of the Spaghetti Westerns, and you could envisage Anthony Mann working wonders with such a tale, though it had in fact been told before in the seventies.

Richard Harris had taken the Glass role there for Man in the Wilderness which took similar liberties with the subject's life and events, but it was The Revenant that looked more likely to pass into vivid movie memory with that as a footnote to this. Thanks it was to the director's in the moment arrangement of his scenes, not interested in making it come across as a series of happenings from very nearly two centuries before but something immediate and vital, as fighting for your life would be no matter what period of history, past, present or future, you existed in. But what set this in its era was Iñárritu's insistence on shooting as if you were watching a computer game, the viewer a player who had mastered every level and was having one last go to make sure they had completed every part of the game.

This made Glass your character to play, though as with many films based on such media the temptation was to forget about audience participation and leave the makers taking the reins, so you were not so much invited into this world but asked to be an observer, carried along as Glass meets his mishaps. Those started with the Indian tribe attacking and wiping out almost the entire trapper party, the remnants of which escape and find themselves the hunters become the hunted as their attackers refuse to give up. As they become increasingly demoralised, Glass goes off to shoot a boar to eat so at least they will have food, but in cartoonish fashion, he is mauled by a bear (cartoonish because after all his effort in besting it, it lands on him as it breathes its last) and the companions begin to wonder if it’s worth dragging him around when he's clearly dying. Glass's son is horrified by this, which leads to a fateful confrontation with leader Tom Hardy, and the vengeance plays out, yet this was more an examination of survival, and how difficult it really is not only to die but to be killed. Persuasively crafted, but rather monotonous. Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carsten Nicolai.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Alejandro González Iñárritu  (1963 - )

Dynamic Mexican director who made his debut in 2000 with the acclaimed multi-story thriller Amores Perros. Directed one segment of the anthology 11'09''01, and made his Hollywood debut in 2003 with the typically hard-hitting drama 21 Grams. He followed this with the similarly multi-stranded Babel, then the family drama Biutiful, but had the biggest success of his career with the Oscar-winning Birdman, a backstage melodrama.

 
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