movie: The Revenant (2015)

This review is spoiler-free.

I’m going to be the outlier here, kids: The Revenant is getting good reviews generally, with reviewers already talking Academy Awards and such. I found it a frustrating waste of my time, and it was only out of respect for my neighbors in the theatre that I stayed through the whole thing.

revenantHugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is part of a fur-trading expedition in some very snowy part of the Midwestern U.S. in the early 1800’s. They are attacked by Indians; Glass is mauled by a bear; most of the crew leaves him with just a few men to care for him, one of whom murders Glass’s son and tries to kill Glass; he is left for dead, but doesn’t die, instead spending the rest of the more than 2 and a half hours seeking revenge. Along the way, every bad thing imaginable happens – mostly to him, but also to a few other unluckies along the way.

A few highlights: the opening battle scene was horrific and graphic but beautifully shot, bumpy and jarring and very real (which will disturb those who are so inclined, but it was well done). The acting was all around superb. Leo did his usual fine job. The scenery was lovely and stark. There was a clever moment to the final scene that I appreciated.

The unreality throughout had me rolling my eyes; it was all I could do to not talk sarcastically back to the screen. (I’m not going to be that guy; but it was hard.) It was truly ludicrous. Yes, I understand this is based on a true story – but only loosely based on a true story on which we have very few specifics. The violence and evil was enormous, ongoing, unrelenting; and it wasn’t leavened or redeemed by humor, uplift, morals, etc. It reminded me dimly of another movie that got decent reviews but that I found gratuitously ugly and rape-filled: Braveheart.

I’ll do the usual spoiler-cover: the following paragraph is in white text; you can highlight to read.

An angry mama grizzly bear makes TWO runs at this Glass guy. Do you know how many people survive that?? Then he goes over a waterfall and later, over a cliff. He, and everybody else, walks in puddles, streams and rivers constantly for weeks and weeks, as the snow piles up and these rivers run with floating ice chunks; but everybody’s feet are fine. Oh, except for Glass’s right ankle, which is so badly broken that it flops at the end of his leg; but a few days or weeks on a makeshift crutch and he walks and runs around like a hale young athlete. Back to those rivers: Glass spends at least many minutes, maybe hours, floating in a river filled with those ice chunks (after going over the waterfall), then climbs out and carries on. I could go on and on, but I needn’t.

Put simply, this guy makes Jack Reacher’s antics look like a Sunday stroll. Fans of that level of badassery with no concern for reality – and a tolerance for gore – will likely be well pleased. It’s not like there’s nothing here to love – excellent acting, striking scenery – but I couldn’t stomach the fantasy. Get me outta here.

Rating: I’ll go as high as 3 toes happily frostbite-free, but only for Leo.

Update: Before I even got this posted, the Umabomber wrote an excellent review proving I am not alone. Hers is here, but it’s entirely spoiler-y, so beware, if you were still going to see this stinker.

4 Responses

  1. Thank goodness I found someone else who didn’t enjoy The Revenant. I really didn’t enjoy it, but everyone else who has seen it keeps telling me how great it is.

  2. I actually had difficulty sitting through the overly long *previews* for this movie, for many of the reasons you mentioned. (Funny how Leo froze to death pretty damn quickly in “Titanic” but he’s apparently a polar bear in human disguise here!)

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