The Revenant (2015)
January 10, 2016 3:39 PM - Subscribe

After being mauled by a bear and left for dead in hostile territory, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) struggles through rough terrain, bad weather and other obstacles to extract his revenge.
posted by carmicha (39 comments total)
Despite gorgeous cinematography, incredible scenery, convincing costumes/props/sets, and an Oscar-bait performance from DiCaprio, I found myself strangely unmoved. I didn't buy the father-son relationship--it felt like gilding the lily, as if simple survival wasn't enough motivation--and Glass doesn't seem to evolve during his ordeal.
posted by carmicha at 3:42 PM on January 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a native Minnesotan, I spent the whole film wondering how they dried their clothes after repeatedly walking or jumping into rivers in the middle of winter.

This film is like a how to guide in dying from exposure. It didn't seem to take place in the real world at all.
posted by maxsparber at 4:39 PM on January 10, 2016 [15 favorites]

The cinematography and Tom Hardy were the best parts of this movie.
posted by Windigo at 6:34 PM on January 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

So it cleaned up at the Golden Globes.

Fury Road was robbed, just saying.
posted by Windigo at 9:02 PM on January 10, 2016 [10 favorites]

The bear attack was intense. But as other have said, it doesn't have a lot of surprises or payoffs. And the dream sequences don't do anything for me.

In the thread on the blue someone said in the real story he came to let go of his anger by the time he made it back. I think that arc would have been much more interesting. Revenge is too one-note. A story of forgiveness (and leave the fictional son out entirely) could have been more interesting.
posted by starman at 7:37 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I knew the film would be relatively shallow. I was, however, hoping for a film that's obsessed with the everyday details of life on the frontier. Hugh Glass was an extremely skilled frontiersman, and yet I feel like we saw none of that. The real glass not only set his own leg, but cleaned out the wounds using maggots. In the movie, his leg has been set for him, and a fictional Native American finds some magic grass that you can apparently throw on wounds to heal them. There were some actual Natives than helped Glass, but they did so by sewing a tarp of bear fur over him to protect his wounds.

The real glass build himself a makeshift raft and floated much of the way back to Fort Kiowa, which, admittedly, would have involved a loss less staggering. But, you know, broken leg, and Bone Tomahawk also has a character that travels a long distance on a broken leg, and that film does a far better job of showing that it is insanity that will undoubtedly cost the man his leg and probably his life.

The worst of it is the treatment of Tom Fitzpatrick, renamed John Fitzgerald for the film. First of all: Great historic character, present at many of the most important events of the west, badly wasted by making him into a villain from a melodrama. He's presented as being an insane racist in this film, but the real Fitzpatrick helped negotiate the Fort Laramie treaty of 1851, was a respected Indian agent for years, and actually died in Washington making sure the treaties were taken care of. And the bear attack in the movie? Glass didn't fight the bear off on his own -- Fitzpatrick helped him.

And Glass's mission of revenge? He tracked down John Fitzgerald, who apologized and returned his rifle to him.

I know the story, as told in the film, superficially seems much more dramatic. But I don't generally like it when history is changed this much, because it tends to simplify what are often tremendously complex stories. The film wants to say so much, but relies on such shallow tropes of the west, and is so hand wavy when it comes to actual details, that I didn't get much out of it besides pretty scenery.
posted by maxsparber at 8:30 AM on January 11, 2016 [26 favorites]

Tom Hardy was really wonderful, I thought. It was an intense, and mostly ridiculous movie. Sure felt damn cold, though.
posted by graventy at 3:10 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I appreciated it for what it was--an unsettling mix of gorgeous scenery and stomach-turning brutality. But I honestly thought it would be a better movie overall. Not exactly disappointed...but this is the kind of movie that I would recommend to certain friends, who like good movies but not necessarily super-intense movies, only if I can say "omg it is hard to watch but so incredibly beautiful and moving."

I can't say that about this film.
posted by chaoticgood at 7:05 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

So, you're all saying that like birdman, this movie's hype is just Hype?

I'll be over here, watching Bone Tomahawk.
posted by valkane at 8:48 PM on January 11, 2016

This just felt to me like the wrong director on the project. I like the writing enough, the cast was very good, and the camerawork was incredible but it was pulled together incorrectly. I feel like Inarritu just didn't understand what was interesting about the actual story.

Basically every movie "would have been better" if Werner Herzog directed it, but goddamn it this movie would have been so much better if Werner Herzog had directed it.
posted by dogwalker at 9:20 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I haven't seen the movie yet, but given that Herzog has been brought up, I feel the need to link to The Next Picture Show, the new podcast from the people behind the defunct The Dissolve. On episodes 7 and 8 they compare and contrast The Revenant and Aguirre, The Wrath of God.
posted by maskd at 3:02 AM on January 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah, every time people happily jumped into the near-freezing water I was thinking—well, I guess they are just soaking wet for weeks at a time.
posted by blueberry at 6:05 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree with the sentiment that this movie was all spectacle, no substance. I loved the imagery and action, but found the story lackluster. I wish I hadn't looked up the real story of Glass's journey prior to seeing it. Those dream sequences were the worst. When they cut to his wife floating above him I laughed out loud.
posted by GrapeApiary at 7:16 AM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I haven't seen this yet, but the trailers make it look pretty much like how it's described above. And all the discussion I've heard about the film is consistent with that.

So the part that confuses me is, does it really make sense to seek revenge on a bear? Does the bear even understand you're avenging something it did to you? Is that the theme being explored? Whether revenge requires whoever wronged you to be aware, to understand that you are doing whatever you're doing to seek redress of a wrong? Or that it's entirely in the mind of the avenger, and thus it is possible to take revenge on a bear.

Is that what The Revenant is about? Because that's all I ever hear about it. Revenge, and a bear.
posted by Naberius at 10:24 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

That's not what it's about. Dicaprio's character is attacked by a bear and following that is left for dead by Tom Hardy's character. Through somewhat more complicated circumstances, Tom Hardy also murders Dicaprio's son. Dicaprio is out for revenge on Tom Hardy's character, not the bear character.

fwiw, the bear does not survive the attack.
posted by dogwalker at 11:02 PM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

To be fair, the bear was a heavy smoker.
posted by blueberry at 11:13 PM on January 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

I was really engaged by Tom Hardy's Philadelphia accent; that's an oddball American accent and I think he did a great job, especially considering he's English.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:53 AM on January 13, 2016

> And the bear attack in the movie? Glass didn't fight the bear off on his own -- Fitzpatrick helped him.

I've got the novel in front of me, and Glass did fight the bear alone, though he was joined soon after by one of their party named Black Harris. Both men were ahead of their group searching for game and scouting. Black Harris killed one cub that was chewing on Glass, and ran the other one off.

Obviously, I'm reading from a novel, but I would like to know what your source is that Fitzpatrick was there. I'm doing some googling and mostly I'm getting what happened in the novel, but it's not always clear if they're talking about real life, or just talking about how the novel differs from the movie.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:05 AM on January 13, 2016

So the part that confuses me is, does it really make sense to seek revenge on a bear?

Yeah, my tongue was somewhat in cheek there, but the marketing for this movie is really weird. I have no idea what drives DiCaprio's character except "REVENGE" and the only thing they give me to hang on that hook is the damn bear. There's other people in the trailers and so on, but the two big things seem to be "REVENGE" and "BEAR." Which, as I note, don't cleanly go together somehow.
posted by Naberius at 9:33 AM on January 13, 2016

I would like to know what your source is that Fitzpatrick was there.

It comes up in a bunch of sources. None of them eyewitness, so I suppose their merit is arguable, but nonetheless, in general, Fitzpatrick was a more complex and interesting character than the one they gave to Hardy.

I mean, if you're going to tinker with history, I would have loved to see Leo take revenge on the bear. That's just good, Shako-style storytelling.
posted by maxsparber at 9:50 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well that answers my question, Max!
posted by Naberius at 12:01 PM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I often take revenge on mosquitos, horseflies, things I bumped my shins on, webpages that won't load, and my sheets when they get tangled up in my feet. So I vote can revenge a bear.
posted by ian1977 at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

(And my revenge on slow websites equals clicking the close button furiously FYI)
posted by ian1977 at 1:09 PM on January 14, 2016

Plus! You can totally AVENGE someone's death. Presumably the dead person is unaware of said avengance, ergo like the bear unaware. Therefore avenging is for the avenger (or at least can be) so revenging is for the revenger.
posted by ian1977 at 1:11 PM on January 14, 2016

I'm not a fan of Tom Hardy. When I first noticed his character in this, I was thinking, "hey, I've hung out with this guy at a rainbow gathering!" Then I noticed it was Tom Hardy and realized he was doing that thing where he passes off mumbling as an early american accent. (It's at it's worst in 2012's Lawless.)

It's a pretty movie, there's a few amazing sequences. But the final third drags, and that final confrontation sounds like it's improvised poorly. You never get a sense in the film that Glass is really as badass as the real life Glass was, (as people have mentioned upthread.) Overall it's great, but felt like Dances With Wolves to me for some reason.
posted by Catblack at 7:04 AM on January 15, 2016

Nasty, brutish, and 156min long.
posted by rhizome at 1:29 AM on January 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well, sign me up for meaningless pain porn, I guess, because I loved it. Loved the spectacle, loved the scenery, bought into the father/son relationship, the silent macho suffering, the Full Leo (god I love DiCaprio; he never phones it in, may his yacht and models stay aloft for many years to come, the big dork). All this plus the priceless gift of a Tom Hardy accent! I get that it's the obvious Best Picture nom to get the brunt of the backlash, and it for sure ain't everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy it when a director commits so thoroughly to his own batshit vision.

The bear attack was freaking awesome. And did anyone not gasp after the cliff scene? Shit like that is why I go to the movies. (Sorry, Brooklyn, I'm sure your winsome white people are lovely and all).
posted by Gin and Broadband at 2:19 PM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

I really didn't like it. I'm really tired of stories about white people nobly surviving in a place native people have lived for generations.

It was just boring and violent, I only stayed till the end hoping maybe they'd address the history and timing of the events of this story and maybe paint some meaningful allegory. But it never did.

I think the old school film-making was pretty but I didn't need the old school story too.
posted by French Fry at 10:10 AM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm really tired of stories about white people nobly surviving in a place native people have lived for generations.

Yeah, my 2nd thought after seeing it was "I want to find some reviews from a Native American reviewer." It was nice that native people had actual translated lines, but all of the native characters were one-note ciphers - Helpful Magical Negro, Victim of White Violence, Vengeful Tracker, etc.

My 1st thought after seeing it was, "Damn, I've never been less interested in a climactic final confrontation in my life." Such a disappointingly thin and simple story - all the more so after reading maxsparber's descriptions above of what really happened:

And Glass's mission of revenge? He tracked down John Fitzgerald, who apologized and returned his rifle to him.

That cracks me up so hard. Fuck Hollywood, and fuck Innaritu's hilariously reductionist macho framing.
posted by mediareport at 6:06 AM on January 22, 2016

I'm not a fan of Tom Hardy.

Have you seen him in Locke? He's amazing. I thought he did a great job adding complexity to an underwritten character in this one. It's a much better and more nuanced performance than Leo's.
posted by mediareport at 6:14 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's one Native perspective:

'The Revenant' Review: It’s Ok, But Still the Same Ol’ White Savior Stuff for Native People seems almost a conspiracy how little control, autonomy or voice Native people were given over our own lives in this movie.  While brutality against Native people is historically accurate so is Native people being free and having agency. Yet Hollywood loves for us to be helpless and needing white people’s saving.  The only time we’re not helpless in these movies is when we’re dead and a white man is learning a lesson from beyond our graves. Natives are always the objects in Hollywood’s movies, never the subjects.

posted by mediareport at 6:22 AM on January 22, 2016

So I went into this not knowing much about it, or even that it was 'inspired' by a true story. So I spent a portion of the movie wondering if it was based on Apache Blood.
posted by RobotHero at 6:37 AM on January 22, 2016

I saw this last night. My opinion of Iñárritu is unchanged. Him and his crew pull off impressive technical feats in service of -- not much, really. His movies just bounce right off of me. Both this and Birdman prominently feature the struggles and travails of put-upon, misunderstood Men With Integrity. But don't pick that apart for more than a few minutes, because the whole thread unravels. At least in Birdman, that seemed to be part of the point - that character wasn't necessarily supposed to be likeable, and (I think) you were supposed to find his perspective flawed and myopic. But there's nothing clever or self-introspective going on under the surface here. At least that I can pick out. It's just "okay, that was a movie I watched. Huh." Certainly doesn't help that the details strain credibility and depart from the real story so drastically. I have a healthy suspension of disbelief, but it draws you out of the movie to wonder "how is this person still alive" every 15 minutes. Like a grimdark Roadrunner cartoon.
posted by naju at 5:35 PM on January 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Finally saw it today. An at times gorgeous show set in an alternate universe where hypothermia doesn't exist.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:33 PM on January 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Saw it last night, and so many thoughts.
1. Hypothermia, yes! How did he not die so many times? And the taun-taun scene? Really?
2. Iñárritu took out the story line about the rifle and added in the fictional son. It seemed like it was because modern folk might not connect to a revenge story about a stolen rifle, but when you add in new shit to a story line, you sometimes also add in plot holes.
So Fitzpatrick kills the son, but in order to hide his crime, he can't take the boy's rifle, knife, fire kit, powder horn or possibles bag. Bridger would have seen and known. The other men at the fort would have seen and known. He has to hide those along with the body. When they leave Glass, he takes Glass's supplies, the very things he needs to survive (except his fire kit and possibles bag? why?). Glass wakes up in the grave. He finds his son. He passes out near him. He wakes up and goes to the litter. He tears it apart and takes what he can to help him survive. He doesn't have a rifle. He needs a rifle to survive.
The first words out of my mouth were "Where is the 4th rifle?" Glass would have gone looking for it.
I thought the addition of the son added nothing.
3. The cinematography and sound design were great. The movie was exhausting and brutal.
4. Native American issues. There is no way this movie could have been made with Glass as the hero AND without including huge problems with Native Americans. These men were interlopers. That being said, the additions made to the storyline seemed to be intended to mitigate this problem, but really didn't help. The cluttered up a pretty simple story of survival. But I guess showing Glass as a wounded man, dragging himself across a thousand miles of wilderness, surviving on his wits alone (with no dialogue) followed by a moment of forgiveness when he gets his gun back would not have had any chance of being a successful movie.
posted by Seamus at 8:58 AM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Somehow my tastes never seem to line up with Metafilter's. I just finally got to see it in the theater and loved it. I don't really care if it follows the true story or the novel, and don't get too upset about stuff like not being able to survive the hypothermia. Films are set in their own universe and obey their own laws.

I could have just seen this as a silent film, it was so amazing to look at and the action sequences were more than enough to pull me along. It didn't seem anything like two and a half hours, it was paced so well. Glad that I saw it in a theater.
posted by octothorpe at 7:23 PM on March 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I know I commented back at the time, but I finally actually saw this the other night. Funny thing about that: I've spent the last, uh, 5 years, thinking for some reason that the bear attack was the entire movie! Two hours of bear attack! I do not know where I got that, and obviously my comment above reveals that I had some exposure to the actual plot, so I'll have to go over this with my therapist.

I was entertained well enough and didn't think it was a waste of time. As above, I had apparently forgotten everything I ever knew about the plot and that it was based on a true story (until I looked it up a while into the movie), so it was all news to me. The hypothermia, taun-taun, and various magical what-what were obviously ridiculous. If I ride a horse off a cliff, I will be sure to do it where there is a tree for me to slide down.

The fight at the end cracked me up! The way they fall to the ground and Leo goes "ungh.." and flicks his axe over and I think chops off some Fitzfingers. I laughed out loud, because it reminded me of the party entrance scene in "Dumb and Dumber."

And credit where due: Leo's hobo-look game is strong!
posted by rhizome at 8:25 PM on June 13, 2021

I've spent the last, uh, 5 years, thinking for some reason that the bear attack was the entire movie! Two hours of bear attack! I do not know where I got that

I only just now learned that this movie is not about revenge on a bear.
posted by praemunire at 7:19 AM on June 14, 2021

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