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The Revenant (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 142 minutes.

Not for children.

This is a compelling and, surprisingly, mostly accurate account of fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who was attacked by a bear while on a fur trapping expedition along the Missouri river in 1823 when he was 43 years old. The head of the expedition, Andrew Henry (Domnhall Gleeson) asks for two volunteers to stay with him until he dies. 19 year old Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) volunteer.

Director Alejandro Gonzâlez Iñárritu (who, back in the day, did voice commercials for my cousin-in-law, Tony Dieste, in Mexico City) tells the story with shocking realism, from a fine script by Iñárritu and Marc L. Smith, partially based on a novel by Michael Punte. The bear attack is as realistic as anything you’ll see on the silver screen. When you view what Glass goes through, you would think this is all Hollywood, but it is, in fact, true! This is a story of survival in the wilderness as Bridger and Fitzgerald abandon him, taking his rifle with them, as Fitzgerald convinces Bridger that Glass is a goner.

I guess that Iñárritu and Smith got the story about Glass’s fictional son and the counter factual ending from the novel, which I have not read. I still don't understand why Hollywood can't let the facts speak for themselves instead of inventing their hackneyed Hollywood Ending.

But regardless of the literary license, this is a fascinating, tense tale with terrific performances by DiCaprio and especially Hardy as the bad guy, Fitzgerald. In an Oscar®-worthy performance, the screen really brightens up when he appears.

Filmed in both Canada and Argentina, the cast endured the elements of mountain life first hand, captured by sparkling cinematography by Emmanual Lubezki. The mountain scenes and rushing rivers are almost worth the price of admission by themselves. At one point the temperature descended to -27°. That certainly adds to the verisimilitude of the film. This is, without question, one of the best films of the year.