The Revenant- 2015 Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 20th Century Fox
The second Hollywood production detailing the harrowing plight… of mountain man Hugh Glass, Leonardo DiCaprio won an Academy Award for his performance. Mauled by a bear and left for dead by his companions, Glass miraculously survived and in an improbable 200 mile journey, traveled to safety at Fort Kiowa in present day South Dakota. “The Revenant” plays fast and loose with history, creating a curious subplot involving a Pawnee wife and son who never existed. Instead of portraying actual events, screenwriter Mark Smith creates a frontier revenge fantasy- Glass’s motivation is changed from simply recovering his property to avenging his murdered family(fictional.)
The 1823 Ashley Expedition was a who’s who… of American frontier history: Jim Bridger, Jedidiah Smith, Giles Roberts, and Glass were all members of the ill fated journey up the Missouri River. “The Revenant” relegates the mighty Bridger to the minor role of conniving thief and does not mention Smith at all. The climactic death struggle between Glass and Fitzgerald is another Hollywood creation. Glass did confront the men who abandoned him, but history shows a simple exchange of money, not the blood and guts which sell movie tickets.
The true star of the film is the bleak North American landscape… filmed primarily in Northern Alberta, the cinematography is stark and stunning; effectively illustrating the hopeless nature of Glass’s journey. Tom Hardy is an effective villainous presence, but the rest of the cast is swallowed by the expansive scenery. Long stretches of the film focus exclusively on DiCaprio’s vengeful Glass, the lack of dialogue drawing more attention to the desolate backdrop. Despite his best efforts, DiCaprio is unable to compensate for the simplistic and historically inaccurate script.