The Revenant, this year’s Oscar nominations leader at twelve, is a beautifully-made, stirring movie. It will no doubt win Leonardo DiCaprio a deserved Oscar for his role as fur-trapping mountain man Hugh Glass. It does, however, have its issues.
Going into the movie, I did not know that it was loosely based on the adventures of a real mountain man who—like our hero in the movie—was left to die in the wilderness after being mauled by a bear. Therefore, I had no problem with the concept that Glass’s Native-American wife and his martyred son are invented characters. Every piece of historical fiction does it.
I didn’t have an issue when Glass fired his single-shot pistol twice in one scene without reloading it. What director wants to stall his movie by making the audience watch his hero jam gunpowder, wadding, and a lead ball down a pistol barrel?
I brushed away the Terrence Mallack-style dream sequences, no doubt instigated by famed cinematographer “Chivo” Lubuzki, which only diverted my attention from the gritty reality of our hero’s physical struggles.
I could overlook the fact that even Mel Gibson could not have survived the massive mangling that Leo DiCaprio endured during his travels, not to mention the compounding effects of hypothermia and exhaustion.
I ignored the film’s consistent predictability: the son’s murder, the Han Solo overnight stay inside an animal; and the fate of our hero’s pal after they split up to chase the bad guy.
I put up with the ridiculously overt symbolism spangled throughout. I tolerated the ambiguous ending. I hate ambiguous endings. To me, they are a cop-out.
No, the thing that I could not get over is a rather obvious geographical problem. The movie has our hero and his friends traverse the snowy high peaks of Rocky Mountains after it clearly establishes that their odyssey starts from a point that is nowhere near there. At the beginning, one character states that the group is fur trapping along the Missouri river. Fine, I said to myself. This is historically good. In fact, the real story took place in 1823 along the banks of the Missouri in South Dakota.
Yes I know that the movie was shot mostly in Canada, but it didn’t have to be. It’s plot expects me to believe that this fur trapping party is attacked by Indians and decides that their best way out of trouble is to scale mountain peaks that are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. In the wrong direction. And our much-abused hero manages to follow them all the way up and down the peaks? Hey—I like Lord of the Rings-style mountain scenery as much as anyone, but come on!
There were just too many gimme-a-break moments for me in this movie. Yet the fact is that the Academy loves it when actors suffer for their art in the way that Leo did during the making of this movie. The Revenant also has the year’s most talked-about scene, the overlong (like the rest of the movie) sequence in which DiCaprio loses his battle against a digital bear.
Prediction: A Best Picture Oscar