review – the revenant


I have to warn you: what follows is a minority opinion. Although this movie (or its cast or crew) is nominated for an Oscar in twelve categories and although some critics are calling this “epic movie making,” I found it overly long, extremely repetitious, and ultimately tedious. It lacks humor, heart, humanity – and really, much of a story. They don’t make epics like they used to make epics. Sitting there in the dark, I started to make a mental list of shots I was tired of seeing: men wading into freezing cold water without getting hypothermia; DiCaprio’s character dragging himself through the snow without gloves; horses moving slowly through a barren landscape carrying men on their way to nowhere. And then there were endless scenes of men backlit by lonely campfires, mostly drinking; DiCaprio’s character eating something raw and bloody; wide-angle up-shots of trees with the sun flaring through; wide-angle up shots of mountains in the moonlight; wide-angle up shots in general. And on and on.

The word “revenant” means “a dead spirit that comes back to life to terrorize the living.” In terms of the movie, fur trader Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is mauled by a bear, is partially buried and left to die on his own. Then, he crawls back to life and spends the rest of the movie seeking revenge on the man, Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who betrayed him. This is essentially a two-man movie – the laconic leader Glass and the loud-mouth know-it-all Fitzgerald. When they meet again, things turn very bloody. There is a lot of suffering in this movie. The dialog is a mix of mumbled English, Pawnee, and long periods of silence. DiCaprio (with his ferocious suffering) and Hardy (with his interminable mumbling) are well-matched and the coldness and constant threat of death by savages become additional characters in the movie, but ultimately this was for me almost too much too take. There’s too much repetition and too little story, too many dazzling shots but too little emotion, too many hardships and too little humanity. And they all add up to too few reasons to recommend this movie.