“The Revenant” is just about surviving a bear attack. The reason this film is nominated for so many awards is that it is so much more than just that tale, although the true story it’s based on is thrilling in itself. Real trapper/scout Hugh Glass conveyed a verbal account of his battle to survive in the early 1800’s after being mauled by a bear. His comrades took his belongings and left him for dead. This account was handed down through the years by fellow frontiersmen. No matter what details or embellishments might have been added to the story of this man who pulled his broken body, alone, 250 miles to the nearest fort during the dead of winter, the ground zero version of the story must have encompassed horrific pain, loneliness, fear, sickness and an incredible will to survive.

The main reason “The Revenant” deserves accolades as an important film, however, is the ability of the movie to effectively draw the audience into the world that not long ago existed in our country’s Midwest:  a world beautiful and bleak, stupendous and painful/ a world inhabited for thousands of years by peoples who innately understood its nature and respected it, who knew how to navigate it.  Hugh Glass’s tale of hardship and perseverance took place on a much bigger stage, which “The Revenant” presents to us.  On this stage, people from a “sophisticated” civilization infiltrated the land, seeking quick riches, claiming its beauty for their own purposes.  This is the real story of revenge in “The Revenant.”  As one character says, “You came all the way to get your revenge, and for what? You can never bring back your son.”  In the same way, we can never bring back the land to the state in which it existed for so many eons.

Leonardo DiCaprio handles one of the most intense roles in film history with skill and believability.  With little dialogue, he brings Hugh Glass to life.  However, Tom Hardy delivers the “piece de resistance” as the evil Fitzgerald.  Hardy is so skilled and gifted at embracing a wide spectrum of characters, that he is often unrecognizable from film to film.

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has intimate experience being a stranger in a strange land, which he brings to this project.  At age 17, he traveled across the Atlantic form his native Mexico by cargo ship and worked his way through Europe and Africa.  Later, from 1987 to 1989 he composed music for feature films – hence the incredible sound track in “The Revenant.”  The cornucopia of natural sounds, spells of silence, and simple emotional music work with the visuals to pull you into the landscape and feel the hardship and the magnificence that it offers up. The film’s brilliant cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki created what supervising sound designer/sound editor Randy Thom called “a playground for sound”.

“The Revenant” is not just a movie – it’s an experience.  Watch it with that in mind.  Immerse yourself.  The film’s message, “As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe…keep breathing,” applies to Hugh Glass in the same way it applies on a larger scale to the Native Americans whose land and way of life were taken away.

Rated R; Run time: 156 Minutes

Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left.  It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people.  She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kwboole@gmail.com

For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.