It takes a lot of money and a lot of talent to make a film as bad as The Revenant.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who won Best Actor, and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won his second consecutive Best Director award, The Revenant cost 135 million dollars. I suppose a hefty chunk of it went to pay for DiCaprio’s salary. A lot more probably paid for travel expenses. The Revenant was filmed in four countries, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Argentina. That makes it the most expensive photo expedition in history. Just about the only thing worthwhile about this 156 minute long pile of crap is Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, which is, it must be admitted, at least competent. Whether or not Lubezki deserved the Oscar for Best Cinematography is hard to judge. Like just about everything else in The Revenant, there’s simply too much of it. This is a film that goes on, and on, and on, and then it goes on some more. By the end, when the barely existent plot finally gets resolved, the viewer is simply too overwhelmed by all the sound and fury to have much an ability left to criticize what he, or she, has just seen.
I would like to call The Revenant a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, but it’s probably more accurate to say that it’s a lot of sound and fury signifying very little. Once you hack through all the distractions, it’s basically a superhero movie disguised as a western. Hugh Glass, DiCaprio, is a civilian guide for a United States Army expedition in the old Northwest territories. In the Winter of 1823, near the forks of the Grand River in what is now South Dakota, the expedition is attacked by a group of Arikara Indians. Initially, Iñárritu gives us very little context for the attack. Later we learn that the chief of the Arikara is looking for his daughter, who’s been kidnapped, and held as a sex slave by the French. It would have been an interesting plot line for a more stripped down, disciplined film, a kind of “The Searchers” in reverse, but Iñárritu isn’t particularly concerned with developing it. It’s just one more distraction in a hale storm of distractions. What Iñárritu has brought us all the way into the deep wilderness to witness, aside from arrow after arrow killing hunter after hunter, is Hugh Glass being mauled by gigantic, and incredibly fast, grizzly bear. I’m honestly not sure if it‘s CGI or Jesse Owens in a bear suit, but whatever it is, it can almost certainly run the 100-yard dash in less than 10 seconds.
DiCaprio – I can’t keep calling DiCaprio Hugh Glass when he’s obviously playing DiCaprio – is clawed and bitten and stomped and bear butt fucked until he’s almost dead. At this point, his superhero powers are developed to the point where he can survive an attack by a gigantic grizzly bear with a huge, throbbing erection, but not quite wrestle him off. I’d say the sex was consensual, but if I did I’d piss off a lot of feminists and besides, I don’t think it was. With DiCaprio near death, the expedition’s commander, Captain Hugh Henry – a complete moron played by the same actor who got rejected by the lovely Saoirse Ronan in the film Brooklyn – does what any good officer does. He leaves a dying man in the care of his mortal enemy.
DiCaprio won Best Actor for playing DiCaprio in The Revenant. It’s absurd. In this film, he’s not even very good at playing DiCaprio. All he does is grunt a lot and occasionally hand off a scene to his stunt double. The only person in The Revenant who does any acting at all is Tom Hardy, who plays John Fitzgerald, a hunter with a special grudge against the Indians, and against DiCaprio for marrying an Indian woman and having a half Indian son. Hardy’s performance isn’t anywhere near Oscar quality, but at least he tries, or, to be more specific, at least he works up a credible imitation of the kind of western stock villain we’ve seen in 1000 other movies.
Most superheros have an origin story. Peter Parker, for example, gets bit by a radioactive spider. For Hugh Glass, it’s lying half dead and watching the evil John Fitzgerald stab his son. After that his body seems capable of regenerating dead tissue. He digs his way out of a shallow grave. He escapes the same band of Indians that attacked the original expedition by swimming through a thundering stretch of rapids. He kills a Frenchmen raping an Indian woman, then kills two more for good measure, and steals a horse. Later in the movie, he rides the horse over a cliff to escape yet another band of Indians, falls what looks to be over 100 feet, then slices open the horse, which died, and shelters himself inside its guts against an oncoming blizzard.
By the time DiCaprio makes it back to Fort Kiowa and his old commanding officer Hugh Henry, John Fitzgerald is in full panic mode, not necessarily because he knows that Henry will try to charge him with murder – Henry is so dumb that he goes out alone to try to bring Fitzgerald to justice and of course gets himself killed – but because the now superhuman DiCaprio is coming to take his revenge. Of course Fitzgerald dies in the end. Whether or not it’s at the hands of DiCaprio you’ll have to find out for yourself since I don’t want to spoil the movie. Oh never mind. I don’t care about spoiling the movie. The Indians do it. By this time you really don’t care about The Revenant’s plot anyway. You just want it to be over.
You leave the theater feeling as if you’ve just been raped by a bear.
Update: According to a press release by 20th Century Fox, the bear is female and what appears to be bear on DiCaprio rape is merely very rough bear on DiCaprio foreplay.