The Revenant

The Revenant

(MA15+) Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy

Bear Grylls could not have written a better script for The Revenant. Actually, it’s probably better to say that Hugh Glass could have been the inspiration for Grylls and his excursions into the wild. Academy-Award winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu follows up his universally acclaimed film, Birdman with this extreme survival tale. He shares the true-to-life journey of wilderness guide Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), as he leads a hunting expedition through the uncharted frontier of the young American landscape. After losing most of his hunting party to an attack from an Indian raiding party and then being viciously attacked by a bear, he is left for dead because of the counsel and actions of veteran trapper, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Survival becomes a primal motivation for Glass, if he is able to see Fitzgerald brought to justice. The frontier man must reach deep into his will to live and overcome great physical odds of the wilderness as his story of survival, redemption and revenge unfolds on the unforgiving landscape.

Glass’ journey is the kind of tale that bores into your soul, rips away all of the non-essential components of life and exposes all that is vital to survive. With minimal dialogue and stunning camera work, Iñárritu delivers one of the more poignant depictions of the survival instinct of man. While it’s hard to imagine that any one person could endure all that this explorer went through, Glass’ tale shows that mankind can stretch itself beyond the greatest of obstacles. When spiritual components emerge during Glass’s journey, they bring stoppages in the story, but these moments of calm provided a respite from the continual action sequences. The narrative is unforgiving and exposes the evil intentions of man and the vicious nature of the environment which fuels the continual race to survive and the search for justice. This cinematic battle is unrelenting and is not for the faint hearted, but proves to be a captivating journey that cannot be limited to words alone.

Talking with friends after the film, The Revenant  managed to show that good and evil are not limited to any one people group, but are found deep in the heart of mankind itself. In this portrayal of visceral brilliance, DiCaprio and Hardy provide two sides of the forces that drive men’s desires. Loyalty to family and the will to survive are countered by an underlying greed, as well as the need for acceptance of present company. All this provides a mix of motivations that show even the most noble rationale can be tainted by selfish incentives. These actors are nearly perfect in their realistic portrayals of life in a frontier existence. With the artistic combination of the vibrant cinematography, different shades of grey, the compelling performances from the lead actors and the audience’s desire to see this through until the end, The Revenant will stand tall as one of the most entertaining experiences of 2016.

Leaving the cinema… 

The Revenant is one of those experiences that remains with you for quite some time after seeing it. This splays open the human condition and cuts it back to the bone. It is worth the time. It will not merely entertainment, but will challenge your heart.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

The story of Hugh Glass and his story of survival takes the statement, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” to a whole new level. Woven into this sordid tale of revenge, redemption and survival is the consideration of how far man’s will can be stretched. Glass was powered by the desire to see justice brought about for his family, but even the end shows that this goal can lead to a hollow victory.

What needs to be considered is how the difficulties in life, if we survive them, can make us better in the end. The amazing story of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible gives us a glimpse into a similar experience to Glass’ experience and how there can be a bigger reason behind the challenges of life. The reason for the difficulties may not all be explained in this lifetime, but they can be used to show how life’s tribulations can potentially bless others and honour God.

1. What can we learn from suffering? (The book of Job, 1 Peter 5:10)

2. Where can you find hope in this despairing world? (Deuteronomy 31:6, Romans 12:12)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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