Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Revenant (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

DiCaprio Gets Gritty In “The Revenant”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

As a boy I used to wear my coonskin cap and sing about how Davy Crockett “killed him a bear when he was only three.” But in “The Revenant” -- the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie playing at Tropic Cinema -- we meet a grizzled frontiersman who nearly gets killed by an angry grizzly.

As it turns out, getting mauled by a bear is the least of Leo’s problems.

Based on “The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge” by Michael Punke, this film introduces us to Hugh Glass (c. 1780 - 1833), a real-life fur trapper who joined an expedition into the Louisiana Purchase wilderness. After being attacked by a tribe of Arikara, Glass meets up with the aforementioned grizzly. Then, betrayed by a member of the hunting party, he is left for dead.

But “revenant” refers to a person who refuses to give up the ghost.

Bent on revenge (as foretold by the book’s title), Glass crawls out of his grave and stumbles through the snowy woods on an arduous 200-mile trek to Fort Kiowa in South Dakota. Along the way he must fight off more Arikara, escape dangerous Frenchmen, and survive the freezing cold. He’s that determined to find the villain who tried to kill him.

Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “The Great Gatsby”) takes on the role of vengeful Hugh Glass, generating Oscar buzz for this physically challenging performance. Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Legend”) is cast as his murderous nemesis John Fitzgerald. And ubiquitous Domhnall Gleeson (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Ex Machina) portrays Captain Andrew Henry, leader of the belabored hunting party.

DiCaprio cited “The Relevant” as one of the most demanding films he’s ever undertaken. “I can name 30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Whether it’s going in and out of frozen rivers, or sleeping in animal carcasses, or what I ate on set. I was enduring freezing cold and possible hypothermia constantly.”

Scheduled to be shot entirely in Canada, warming temperatures forced the film crew to chase snow to 12 different locations in three different countries, wrapping up the last scenes at the tip of Argentina where snow still lay on the ground. The budget mushroomed from $60 million to $135 million.

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu shrugs off the film’s high price tag. “We all knew what we wanted, we knew how to get it, but every obstacle was in the way of what we needed.”

So the studio gave him leeway -- allowing the $75 million overrun. “Every other film of mine has been on budget,” he says defensively. “But nobody will go to a film because the guys were on schedule and on budget. It’s how good the film is.”

Iñárritu has a point. At last year’s Academy Awards he won Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture for “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).” And no one cared whether it came in on budget or not.

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