Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in his umpteenth attempt at acquiring that elusive Oscar, The Revenant is partly based on the experiences of American frontiersman, fur trapper, and explorer Hugh Glass.
Now time for a brief history lesson. Ready kids?
In 1823 in South Dakota while on a fur-trading venture, Hugh Glass was mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his fellow travellers. Amazingly, Glass survived and despite his broken leg and back wounds, was able to travel 200 miles to Fort Kiowa.
After returning, Glass was reportedly known thereafter as ‘the revenant.’
This film obviously embellished and exaggerated certain facts for dramatic effect, but that doesn’t change the impact of the story. Ultimately, it retells the true story of a man who survived something life changing and allegedly sought revenge against those who’d deserted him.
The scene where Glass (DiCaprio) is actually attacked by the bear is a breath-taking piece of cinema, and DiCaprio himself claimed that the scene ‘breaks cinema boundaries.’ Using some of the most impressive VFX I have ever seen, you’d be forgiven for thinking the bear itself was real. It lasted over five minutes and saw Glass tossed around, mauled, and crushed by the bear as it protects its cubs. The entire scene is relatively silent apart from the grunts of the bear and the terrifying screams from Glass, which makes the entirety of the scene bone-chillling.
The sole focus of the film is on DiCaprio’s portrayal of Glass which is phenomenal, but I think the focus on DiCaprio can easily cause Tom Hardy’s performance as John Fitzgerald to be overlooked. Hardy’s portrayal of Fitzgerald is another great example of how Hardy is able change his appearance, voice, and demeanour as he did for his roles in The Dark Knight Rises, Bronson, and Legend. I didn’t even realise it was him until halfway through the film.
Let the history lesson continue:
John Fitzgerald was allegedly one of the men who left Glass for dead when they were charged with staying with him until he died and then burying him. I guess he didn’t really bank on him surviving a bear attack and crawling 200 miles for his sweet, sweet revenge. The real-life Hugh Glass supposedly spared Fitzgerald’s life as he was now a soldier of the US army, but DiCaprio’s Glass was a lot less forgiving.
But yes, as always, DiCaprio’s performance is remarkable and you can see this as you watch the film. A majority of his scenes involve himself acting alone, which I imagine can’t be easy, and even the scenes that do involve interaction are hampered by the character’s slashed throat. So there might not have been that many lines to learn, but DiCaprio did claim that he could name ’30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do…going in and out of frozen rivers…sleeping in animal carcasses…enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly.’ Now that is dedication.
DiCaprio’s willingness to actively partake in these scenes on location to make them as real as possible is a credit to himself as an actor and proof that he is always capable of going that extra mile.
DiCaprio’s extraordinary performance as Glass was recently recognised as he did win his third Golden Globe award for Best Actor, but throughout the film this man survives a mauling by a bear, sleeps naked inside a hollowed out horse, and watches his only son murdered in front of his very eyes. Give this man a damn Oscar!