Watch CBS News

"The Revenant" Movie Review

"The Revenant" (2015)

The Revenant 1sh
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

In 1823 South Dakota, a group of fur trappers is guided by scout Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and aided by his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). The trappers are led under the command of Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). Their mission is to trap as many animals for fur as they can and then get back to the fort that houses the trading company where they work. It's hard work, made harder by the harsh winter conditions and the constant threat of Indian attack. Glass is a man of few words, but he is a great scout, capable of finding the best places to trap and a man you want by your side during trouble.

Suddenly, the men are attacked by the Arikara tribe, and it's very apparent that unless they act quickly, few of the trappers will survive such an attack. Glass and his son lead as many men as they can gather onto their riverboat to escape the merciless Indians. After getting away from the initial attack, Glass convinces most that the way home isn't by boat, where they will be sitting ducks for any attack, but across the mountains to their fort. Some decide to stay with the boat, but most trust their scout, including Captain Henry. John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is very vocal in his opposition to following Glass. Fitzgerald is not well liked by his fellow trappers, and he bares the scar of having been partially scalped in his past.

The Revenant photo 5
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Glass hunts alone for food. Out in the woods he is savagely attacked by a bear that badly mauls him. Captain Henry sends men out to locate Glass and Hawk finds his father near death. The men drag Glass back to their makeshift camp and now Captain Henry must decide to either try and carry what he perceives as the dying Glass over an incredibly rough terrain or leaving him behind with a couple of men, giving them grave digging duty when he dies. Captain Henry decides to leave Glass with Fitzgerald, Hawk and another young man named Jim Bridger (Will Poulter). It's a decision that all the men will regret for the rest of their lives, with some of those lives will be shorter than others.

"The Revenant" is a brutally violent movie, but that violence is not exploited like a "campy" horror film but is shown to illustrate how harsh the world was. The attack by the bear is horrific and goes on so long it becomes very uncomfortable to watch. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu has created action sequences that are incredible to watch, especially with the knowledge that  it was done with a minimal amount of CGI special effects (mostly to animate the bear) and without "green screens." The battle sequence between the Indian tribe and the trappers is one of the best war scenes I have ever experienced in a movie theater. The action flows in one almost continuous shot as we follow Glass as he navigates through all the fighting in an attempt to find his son and get him to safety.

The Revenant photo 2
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

The movie is beautifully shot as cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki used only available light to film the outdoor scenes. Lubezki makes the landscape seem gorgeous and threatening all at the same time. There are times the views are breathtaking as the white of the snow contrasts with the dark greens of the forest and landscape shots seem to go on forever. Lubezki also uses light to create moods, such as the ominous looking woods along the river, making us think we see an attacker behind every tree as the men try to escape in the riverboat.

Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his most powerful and captivating performances of his career. If he does win the Oscar for this role, it won't be because of the dialogue as DiCaprio has more lines in Pawnee than in English. DiCaprio gives the part his all, and we can see it in his face and eyes as he fights for survival in this harsh, cruel world. Tom Hardy, almost unrecognizable under a scraggly beard, partially scalped head and a voice that is more grunts than words matches DiCaprio's intensity and commitment. He makes us hate his character from the start, spewing out venom to anyone who will listen. It's the type of role that Hardy excels at, immersing into a character so deeply that we believe his character is that evil to the core.

The Revenant photo 4
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

"The Revenant" is not a perfect film and is let down by some dialogue that sounds downright wooden. I also did not like the numerous dream sequences that Glass has throughout the movie as he reminisces about his life when he was younger with his wife and young son. Iñárritu goes to those dream sequences too many times and making the film feel choppy and lacking pace.

Overall, this is a film that on one hand is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but also is a brutal movie to watch as we see men pushed to their very limits in a world that does not forgive. It's a difficult journey to watch this film, but the performances of DiCaprio and Hardy make it worth the effort      My Rating: Full Price

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

"The Revenant" is now playing in Atlanta area theatres.

"The Revenant" Website

For more of Mike's reviews and interviews click here


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.