Monday, January 25, 2016

Revenant: The Long Crawl of Hugh Jass

Leonardo DiCaprio stars with Tom Hardy and hallucinates about his dead wife.

But this time, there are bears.

My first real exposure to the movie was in the lobby of a movie theater. My wife and I had come in separate cars, and while I as waiting for her to arrive, I watched the trailer for Joy a million times( and I guess Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro are their own repertory company now or something?) and I also saw this poster with DiCaprio's giant bearded head on it, but didn't think anything of it beyond the fact that I felt he looked at awful lot like Heath Ledger up there.

It was only later after a friend mentioned it that I became interested, because that's when I learned the story was about Hugh Glass. The Long Crawl of Hugh Glass is Roger Zelazny's fictionalized account of Glass's journey after he (Glass, not Zelazny) was mauled for a bear and left for dead.  It exists as both a short story, The Long Crawl, as well as a novel, Wilderness. Long Crawl is a better title for a story, but Wilderness is the better story.

Unfortunately, this movie is not an adaptation of Long Crawl, but of another fictionalized account. As Chris DeVito observes here, it's a less subtle interpretation.

But enough rambling.
  • The direction and the cinematography here are just astounding. Alejandro Iñárritu's direction is breathtaking. I don't have the superlatives to describe it. It's gorgeously shot, amazingly framed and rendered to the smallest detail. 
  • The bear attack is visceral. I can't think of anything I've ever seen onscreen that compares.
Too late, Hugh realized he had fallen victim to one of the classic blunders. Never bring a knife to a bear fight.
  • Tom Hardy was brilliant.
  • DeCaprio grew a beard.

Hardy, as Fitzgerald, was simultaneously the best and worst thing about the movie. He looks positively haunted when he suspects Glass might be coming back for him.

The character he is given to play is the most one-note villain imaginable. As DeVito observed earlier, he's a brutal, sadistic bully with no redeeming qualities. He urges the party to abandon Glass for his own convenience, tries to kill Glass when they're alone, kills Glass's son when he's interrupted, then goes on to rape his dog, copy his homework, and pee in his Cheerios, one presumes.

He's a terrible villain, but a fascinating character. 

I didn't like DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, though. He really gives it his all, but all the method acting in the world won't give him the presence that size confers,

"Hugh, what are you doing to that horse?"
 "A man gets powerful lonely out here."

I'm hearing talk of an Oscar for his performance, and while he hasn't given a bad performance since his stint on Growing Pains, this is hardly his best, either.

The Native Americans came off a bit too much like noble savages, and another reviewer pointed out that of the two women in the film, one gets killed and the other gets raped.

I try to not complain too much about liberties being taken with adaptations of true stories, but I do think the changes made to the story, with Hardy's character being a straight-up villain, make it less compelling that what actually happened. (Only Audie Murphy can get away with making a true story more boring.)  The true story is a Man versus Nature story, and introducing a revenge plotline dilutes what made it unique.

It was beautiful to watch, but also, not infrequently, it was kind of boring, too.  There was no tension. In this kind of movie, you know the protagonist is going to get his revenge. The question is how, and I just didn't care enough. I might watch the actions scenes again, but don't think I'd want to watch the whole thing from start to finish.

I thought they smelled bad on the outside.

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