Film Review by Kam Williams
Harrowing Tale of Survival Recounts Legendary Explorer’s Grueling Ordeal on American Frontier
Hugh Glass (1780-1833) was a legendary frontiersman who explored the American West in the early 19th Century. He’s been previously portrayed on the big screen by Richard Harris in Man in the Wilderness (1971) and by Dewitt Lee in Apache Blood (1975).
Glass’ life story has also been the subject of several books, most recently, The Revenant, a harrowing tale of survival published by Michael Punke in 2002. That best-selling page-turner has now been adapted by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who won a trio of Academy Awards for writing, directing and producing Birdman, 2015’s Best Picture of the Year.
The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio who just might finally land the Oscar that has eluded his grasp five times before. For, this is a star vehicle featuring the veteran thespian in virtually every scene. And he never disappoints, delivering again and again in a compelling performance which keeps you on the edge of your seat as you pull for his character from beginning to end.
At the point of departure, we are introduced to Hugh and his orphaned, Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), as they escort a hunting party of fur trappers across the Rockies. Along the way, the expedition is tested at every turn, whether by “Injun” ambush, animal attack, frigid weather or the challenging terrain.
Unfortunately, one member of the crew, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), is a cowardly racist with no reservations about cavalierly murdering Hawk and leaving the boy’s badly wounded father behind to die in the forest. Instead of perishing, Hugh exhibits an incomparable will to survive, if only to pursue his son’s killer to the end of the Earth, or at least back to the fort.
What ensues is a visually-captivating spectacular chronicling our intrepid hero’s determination to exact revenge in honor of his dearly-departed offspring. Despite the host of hurdles in his path, Hugh remains resolute as he stalks Fitzgerald across a vast expanse of the Wyoming wilderness in a deliberately-paced game of cat-and-mouse. Credit co-star Tom Hardy for serving up the sort of sniveling villain in the backstabbing Fitzgerald.that an audience just loves to see get his due. That makes it easy to endure the 2+ hour build-up to the fierce finale.
A relentlessly-gruesome, gritty and grim adventure reminiscent of how the West was won.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, graphic violence, gory images, ethnic slurs, brief nudity and a rape
In English, French and Native American dialects with subtitles
Running time: 156 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox