Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writer: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro González Iñárritu
Based on: Michael Punke‘s novel, a ficitonalized version of Hugh Glass‘ life
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Paul Anderson, Kristoffer Joner, Joshua Burge, Duane Howard, Melaw Nakehk’o, Fabrice Adde
Seen on: 19.1.2016
Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is guide to a troupe of fur traders/soldiers led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). It’s a dangerous mission which is soon proven by an attack by a group of Arikaras, closing off their planned return route. But the problems don’t end there – Glass himself gets attacked by a bear and only barely escapes with his life. As he is deeply wounded, caring for him would mean risking the lives of all the other men, so Captain Henry asks some to stay behind until Glass passes on, which seems a certainty. shifty Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and idealistic Bridger (Will Poulter) stay behind, as well as Glass’ son (and half-Pawnee) Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). But things don’t go as planned: Fitzgerald betrays Glass and Glass, against all odds, suvives and swears to get his revenge.
The Revenant is a good film though I’m not quite as taken with it as everybody else seems to be. Maybe because I’m not a man and this is a film very much concerned with one particular brand of masculinity.
The Revenant is a long film and I thought that it would turn out quite boring. But it never really does, which is a point in its favor. Iñárritu manages to keep the tension quite nicely throughout the entirety of the film and only lost my suspension of disbelief in a few moments. With a story that is as unlikely as this one (even if based on true events) that is quite an achievement.
It’s also the probably least racist film they could have made from that story. We get to see that there is more than one group of natives, the “bad guys” get some motivation that is not just “we want to see the white men destroyed because their evil”, Fitzgerald’s racism is shown as deeply problematic – although his story about how he was attacked in the past reinforces stereotypical notions a little too much. I would have liked a bit more counterweight to that. But I don’t want to get too excited about it. After all, it’s still a story that is firmly rooted in the white perspective and where the natives are mostly an obstacle to overcome – or a mysterious helping force. It could have been worse, yes, but it is not exactly a film that manages to invert racist and/or colonialist structures.
It’s also not exactly great with women – the two women who are actually relevant to the story only serve as motivation for the guys and otherwise the film is all about the guys and how manly they are. And the film has a pretty clear vision of what it means to be a good man – and only a good man is a real man. This vision of hegemonic masculinity is all about honor and a patriarchal caring for people who depend on you, but it’s also about physical strength and tenacity. Glass has it, Henry has it, the Arikara Chief and the Pawnee who helps Glass have it, too. I am interested in gender and examinations of masculinity but this clear-cut, old-fashioned and unquestioning take on it, is frustrating more than anything else.
Nevertheless The Revenant does have a lot to offer. From Lubezki’s beautiful cinematography to the excellent cast, from the good pacing to the editing, it’s an expertly crafted film. It just didn’t speak to me as much as it did to others.