Dallas Movie Screening

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Friday, January 8, 2016

The Revenant

A Revenant. A visible ghost or animated corpse sent to terrorize the living. A 2002 literary release by the same name from Michael Punke, that tells the story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his miraculous survival from a visceral grizzly mauling, overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds when left to die by fellow fur trappers. He drags himself, crawls, floats, limps, walks and sometime rides 300 miles over two months from abandonment point to an established Fort and was able to seek out the main one who abandoned him. A story of the human spirit, spurred on by revenge and the drive to survive until the last breath is taken. The 2015 film, The Revenant, is already being hailed and the top picture of the year, and a shoe in for Oscars for male actor, cinematographer and possibly director and film editing.

Alejandro Inarritu (director) is fresh off an Oscar win for Birdman and Emmanuel Lubezki (cinematography) is in line for a third consecutive Oscar following Gravity and Birdman. Emmanuel also was cinematographer for Tree of Life and Children of Men and is inarguably one of the best. We last heard a score from composer Ryuichi Sakamoto in 1987, with The Last Emperor. Combine this level of talent with a special effects staff of 28, 30 make up artists, 56 art department workers, 49 sound professionals, 47 stunt actors and 222 visual effects artists and send them to Canada, Montana and seeking snow in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, for some of the most amazingly spectacular scenery ever put on film and you have a future classic that will be talked about for months and be hard to get out of your mind. The filming angles and approaches, the portrayals of raw and savage nature, the close focus and wide angle showcases exist to make the viewer become a part of the backdrop.

The Revenant is truly spectacular and unforgettable. The setting and scenery compete for best actor as captured by the crew. You feel the cold, can hear the ice melt, sense the trees move and the leaves rustle, hear the sounds of wildlife in the distance and endure immersion in frigid rivers. A favorite scene shows Glass and his enemy engaged in a to-the -death fight while light moves in from the upper right to illuminate trees on the incline up from the riverbed. The movement of light and snow is a powerful effect. Icy breath fogs the camera lens but blood spatters it too. The movie is also terrifyingly brutal all the way around. There is blood and gore aplenty via Native American attacks (an Arikara massacre 30 plus trappers), man vs man struggles and man vs nature encounters. It is not an easy watch but once pulled in, it is very hard not to look away as the draw is substantial. The film portrays accurately what the life of a trapper would have been like in the 1920's to near perfection. Leo is in the finest and hardest role of his life and took it very seriously, taking four months to grow a beard and consuming real raw bison liver on screen. He has possibly 15-20 actual lines of dialogue, yet he conveys anguish, pain, suffering, anger and determination with his face and body. The 80 day, 9 month shoot used natural light and as a result, limited the time shooting could take place each day. Sometimes they only had 2 1/2 hours. But the result is simply stunning. One of the most beautiful pictures made or seen. Other players are the Pawnee, the Sioux, the Ree, French fur traders, Glass nemesis John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and an 18 year old Jim Bridger (British actor Will Poulter- delivering a huge performance surprise after a comedic turn in We are the Millers ), one of the greatest mountain men in US history. The moral component lies within Bridger and expedition leader Captain Andrew Henry (Donhnall Gleeson).

The filmmakers and writers took some liberties with the story. Glass did not have an Indian wife or son. His epic journey was in South Dakota and not in winter and in real life, he forgave Fitzgerald but these additions in the film add fuel to Glass's struggle and desire to live. There is a spiritual component written in via his visions, onscreen, of his Pawnee wife (Grace Dove) and half breed son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) whom Fitzgerald murders in cold blood. There is lively debate as to whether Glass could have actually survived the conditions in the film, as shown, with the majority saying no way. This reviewer, having stood in a glacial river for only two minutes time, and knowing how the rapidly numbing sensations feel, believes that Glass surely would have succumbed to hypothermia, especially when immersed and wet for extended lengths of time. When you read and actual list of Glass's injuries, it is indeed a miracle he survived to become the legend he did. At 2 1/2 plus hours of constant wonder and empathic stress, the possibility for emotional exhaustion exists for the movie goer but it is so very worth it. One will never quite look at or hold respect for the power of the wilderness again. The Revenant is a must see.
(Review by Cheryl Wurtz)

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