By Tom Smith (San Diego)
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If you know absolutely nothing about the history of the American Frontier, you may or may not love The Revenant. If you do know something, you probably won’t. At 2 hours and 30 minutes, it’s way too long, but it’s worth sitting around long enough for the visceral scene of the bear attack, which occurs early on in the story, thanks to the insanely realistic computer generated bear, nothing quite like this has ever appeared in a movie before. It is certainly the high point of the film, and if you leave after it, you will not miss much. Is it worth the price of admission to watch Leonardo nearly ripped to pieces, and then leave? Yes. An amazing scene – too bad it couldn’t have gone on longer (about 2 hours longer).

As for what really happened…

Hugh Glass really was attacked by a she bear, but in flat as a pancake South Dakota – no mountains, no waterfalls, no dense woods – just wide open prairies and meandering muddy rivers. He really did crawl and limp 200 miles to a fur trading post on the Missouri, where he found the teen-aged Jim Bridger, who thought he was seeing a ghost (Bridger had left him for dead and buried him under fallen leaves). Glass showed mercy and let Bridger live to become one of the most famous of all the Mountain Men. He then tracked down Tom Fitzpatrick, the other trapper who abandoned him, but he let him live too – also to go on to become a big name in fur trading history. Forgiveness – not exactly a Hollywood ending. Instead, The Revenant ends up as just another bloody revenge flick, good guy killing bad guy, with a completely predictable finale.

That being said, one of my main issues with The Revenant was its unsatisfying depiction of the American Mountain Man – along with the cowboy, an iconic figure in American history. I never really felt that I was watching anything other than twenty-first century actors replaying stock scenes we’ve seen in a slew of recent good guys vs. bad guys movies.

One of the major weaknesses with the film was its out-period use of language, including obscenities which did not even exist in the 1820’s – not to mention Tom Hardy’s excessively weird accent and marbles-in-the-mouth pronunciation (I missed about half of whatever he was trying to say). And then there’s the usual physics-defying total balderdash that litters so many Marvel superheroic flicks these days – such as Leonardo flying off a hundred foot cliff on horseback, crashing into a fir tree, and surviving. No way! But at least the horse dies.

Finally, the scenes in which Leonardo is guided by the vision of his deceased wife are unabashedly ripped off from Braveheart. I did like the scene where Leonardo comes out of the freezing river trembling uncontrollably. This scene really stretched him as an actor uncontrollably.

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