The Revenant Reviewed Explained and its Historicity Dissected
Nothing like it. Absolutely nothing. Just a phenomenal movie.
96%Overall Score


The Revenant Reviewed Explained and its Historicity Dissected

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B01AB0DX2K]If you have yet to see the Revenant, (which, most of you won’t have the opportunity as it isn’t widely released quite yet, January 5th I believe?) this section will be safe from spoilers. I will clearly denote where I start to delve into spoilers. Because I plan to do a deep dive and dissection into the inner workings of the film and the true history of Hugh Glass. So, please watch for the blaring flashing lights and the sirens, and only continue on after you’ve seen the film. Fair enough? But it is my plan to do a very detailed vivisection of this amazing film and explain some of the deeper inner workings going on right in front of our eyes.

I’ve been talking about the incoming Revenant for quite a while now. I even went so far as to declare it the winner of the 2015 Oscars. Well, I was lucky enough to get a chance to see The Revenant even before it went wide with it’s release… (Thanks a ton Fox!) And oh, holy, cow. What a movie. But I’ll get to that in a moment. Iñárritu went so far out of his way to guarantee that the film would be available in theaters before the end of the new year, in order to guarantee a chance at the Oscars for 2015. So what are his odds there?

The Revenant’s Oscar Odds

revenant-ridingNow that I’ve seen the movie, I am even more certain than ever that Leonardo will finally get his best actor Oscar. And not only that, but it will win for Best Movie of the year as well. I am so confident I think they should just shut the Oscars down for the year this year. I’ve never seen anything like it. Here are the Oscars that I am betting that it will collect:

  • Academy Award for Best Picture
  • Academy Award for Best Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio (1st, will break his losing streak)
  • Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – Tom Hardy (1st)
  • Academy Award for Best Director – Alejandro González Iñárritu (2nd year in a row)
  • Academy Award for Best Production Design
  • Academy Award for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award for Best Cinematography
  • Academy Award for Best Costume Design
  • Academy Award for Best Film Editing – Stephen Mirrione (2nd, 1st was for Traffic)

Nine isn’t too bad. I’d guess it would take 10 or 11 in any other year. For example, The Revenant could also take the Best Visual Effects award, but there was a Star Wars movie released this same year… and there is no way on God’s gloriously green earth that anyone will beat Star Wars when it comes to visual effects. It’s not because Star Wars’ special effects are so good, but it’s because it is the one token win they can give to one of the most significant movies in the history of film. They are (and will be) the top grossing films of all time, and they are the top payer of paychecks throughout Hollywood. That should be honored somehow, right? The Force Awakens will get a nomination for Best Movie this year, but it won’t win. So Effects will be a safe bet for the new lightsaber feature.

The Revenant will also not take home the Best Score award solely because Iñárritu chose to bring in two different composers to work on the score. Although it was primarily Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score that we hear. Iñárritu is currently appealing this decision by the Academy… which he also appealed last year for his work in the movie Birdman, after he added pre-existing classical music to the score. But he failed to impress the Academy last year with his argument, and he will fail to impress them again this year. Especially in a year when John Williams appears in the docket. John Williams is the second most nominated human, behind Walt Disney himself. But he has only won 5, and his last win was for Schindler’s List. I’m betting he’ll win again. Finally breaking that drought. The Oscars are nothing if not sentimental. But regardless, Iñárritu basically was honored last year for Birdman, but didn’t receive the awards the movie should have won. Best Editing? Puh-lease. This year though, the Revenant falls in line with the sort of movie that the Academy adores to heap praise on. Historical set pieces, set in natural settings? This is a slam dunk. I promise you I’ll come back and check in to see how well I did on my predictions.

The Revenant Movie Story Overview

This photo provided by Twentieth Century Fox shows Tom Hardy in a scene from the film, "The Revenant." The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Jan. 8, 2016. (Twentieth Century Fox via AP)

The basic story of this film is fairly easy to communicate, if fairly difficult to grasp emotionally. Hugh Glass and a group of trappers and fur traders were hunting throughout the Missouri territory. They are attacked for their pelts (which, APPARENTLY, are worth more than gold… because some of the things these guys do for this stupid pelts are beyond me) an chaos ensues. A few of the men get away and soon after Glass is attacked by a bear – the mother of all bears, these beast is something else – only to barely escape with his life. The group is left with a quandary on their hands. Glass, was important in their surviving this far, but what now? So the group decides to leave his son, and two others with him, until he dies. Chaos ensues through a few details that I won’t share here, and Glass’ son dies, and Glass is buried alive. Obviously Glass survives, and the rest of the film is just one big nature porn – revenge flick. One of the greatest next two hours of cinematography actually. How on earth is this going to play out? How could this possibly have really happened? All of these thoughts went through my mind, over and over again. The movie is kind of like letting someone disembowel you, and then, at regular intervals, letting them stir the contents of your intestines while you watch. (And by the way, I mean this in the best possible way.) It is a movie that demands respect. It is a movie that demands watching with eye drops, because you won’t blink for the duration. It is a truly fantastic movie in every sense of the word.

Here is the trailer for this flick – definitely a better trailer than the first one they released which told too much of the story:

See? Goodness, and light. What an extraordinarily good movie. Makes me want to head to the theater today and watch it again. Oh wait, it’s not out yet. Curses! January 5th can’t come soon enough.


The Historicity of Hugh Glass and His Story

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1250101190]Alright, if you’d like to walk into the movie theater with nothing but the above general overview, I highly recommend you abandon this conversation at this point. We’d (what am I saying, there is only me here… I guess I enjoy utilizing the royal we?) love to have you back. But I definitely don’t want to ruin your watching experience.

The Revenant was originally a novel released in 2002 by author Michael Punke. Since seeing the film I figured I should go back and read Punke’s groundbreaking novel and see how the movie differed from the novel. And surprisingly, the book is an absolutely rip-roaring read. Punke’s tone is really quite journalistic in his approach and very even handed of the events as they happen. But one of the flaws of the book (that the movie overcompensates for) is it’s handling of the Indians throughout. The nameless Indian, watching from up above. The fact that the indians are the stand in for evil, and are the two dimensional bad guys? Seems like lazy writing to me. But otherwise the book is a fantastic read. And if you don’t mind going into the theaters with knowledge of the plot, the book would be a great read beforehand I’m guessing. I enjoyed it after the fact anyway.

But one of the single biggest differences between the novel, and the movie, is enormously significant. This one change is the entire raison d’etre of the film. And that is that Glass, had a son, and his son, was half Pawnee Indian. Blam. Just like that, we are inside the weaknesses of Glass’ thin portrayal of the Indians. The historical Glass, did spend a year with the Pawnee Indians. So maybe it could have happened that he had a son via a Pawnee wife? I went digging, fairly deeply, and came up with this first telling of the story of Hugh Glass in the Missouri Trapper. It’s an amazing read all by itself. I mean, how can you not completely flip out when reading this sort of thing?

“The varied fortunes of those who bear the above cognomen, whatever may be their virtues or demerits, must, upon the common principles of humanity, claim our sympathy, while they cannot fail to awaken admiration. The hardships voluntarily encountered, and the privations manfully endured,, by this hardy race in the excercise of their perilous calling, present abundant proofs of those peculiar characteristics which distinguish the American woodsmen. The trackless desers of Missouri, the innumerable tributary streams of the Mississippi, the fastnesses of the Rocky Mountains, have all been explored by these bold adventurers; and the great increasing importance of the Missouri fur trade, is an evidence, as well of their numbers, as of their skill and perseverance.”

Like I said, it’s a great read all by itself, and could possibly be an even better pre-read to watching the movie than Punke’s novel. But that’s just me.

The basics of the story (in the original account, the letters, the novel if not also the movie) are simple enough. A group of fur traders were moving through the Missouri wilderness. Glass and another unnamed tracker were leading the way and gathering food in advance so that the larger party wouldn’t go to bed without dinner. While scouring the woods for food Glass stumbled upon a “white bear” that tore Glass to “peases” [sic] as described by a letter about the event written by Daniel Potts. Why don’t we just let the Missouri Trapper tell you the general overview of the storyline?

“The rifle of Hugh Glass being esteemed as among the most unerring, he was on one occasion detached for supplies, He was a short distance in advance of the party, and forcing his way through a thicket, when a white bear that had imbedded herself in the sand, arose within three yards of him, and before he could “set his triggers,” or turn to retreat, he was seized by the throat, and raised from the ground. Casting him again upon the earth, his grim adversary tore out a mouthful of the cannibal food which had excited her appetite, and retired to submit the sample to her yearling cubs, which were near at hand. The sufferer now made an effort to escape, but the bear immediately returned with a reinforcement, and seized him again at the shoulder; she also lacerated his left arm very much, and inflicted a severe wound on the back of his head. In this second attack, the cubs were prevented from participating by one of the party who had rushed sorward to the relief of his comrade. One of the cubs, however, forced the new-comer to retreat into the river, where, standing to the middle in water, he gave his foe a mortal shot, or to use his own language—“I burst the varment.” Meantime, the main body of trappers having arrived, advanced to the relief of Glass, and delivered seven or eight shots with such unerring aim as to terminate hostilities, by despatching the bear as she stood over her victim.”

And while this isn’t exactly how the bear mauling goes down in the movie, it’s close enough for our purposes. Glass is laid waste by a bear, and nearly dies. The whole company is in debt to Glass for his skills, and his abilities, and so they decide that they will leave a few men back with Glass and bury him after he dies. It is then that the movie diverges most significantly with the historical accounts and it is Glass’ son that is the main driver and motivator of the movie going forward. But in the historical account, it was the fact that five men, willingly chose to live Glass behind. They took his gun. They took his supplies. And they left him for dead. Glass managed to crawl to a nearby stream, and to subsist on berries and on the water. He then began the slow 300 mile crawl back towards civilization. And it is this experience that fueled the desire for revenge, not the murdering of Glass’ son. Either way, both would be enough to make me want to kill someone. It’s almost like the movie Touching the Void in one sense. But much much more intense.

The Revenant Cinematography

revenant-bearLast year, my favorite movie of the year was an easy choice. It was Iñárritu’s Birdman. And a lot of that had to do with the cutting edge cinematography. The interesting editing (or non-editing?) choices. And the compelling way in which the movie was told. Similarly, Iñárritu’s Revenant has all the same draw, and more. The special effects are completely invisible in this movie. What special effects? This movie really happened. Which is both good and bad for the movie in that even amongst Academy voters they won’t recognize when they are being show special effects. For example the avalanche that Glass watching pouring down out of the mountains. I guarantee you that wasn’t real. Or wait, better yet, this whole scene right here:

We see a ton of stuff in this chase scene that has got to be special effects. But what? I have no idea. Obviously the horse getting shot in the butt with arrow. But the entirety of the horse going over the cliff, and Glass with it. Had to have been special effects. I think?!? Right? Because, we don’t generally even let stuntmen fly off cliffs and into the trees. I don’t think so anyway! hahah. But I couldn’t tell you for sure that this was a special effect it was so thoroughly well embedded in the film.

Another aspect of the cinematography is how Iñárritu did the shoot. Apparently, shooting on location in the wilds of Canada is difficult at best. And it took so long to get to the remote locations that it left very little time for actual filming. The shoot was extremely difficult to pull off.

It was planned this way, to be little-by-little jewel moments; that’s the way I designed the production. That was both to create intensity in this moments, as well as the climate conditions. We are shooting in such remote far-away locations that, by the time we arrive and have to return, we have already spent 40% of the day. But those locations are so gorgeous and so powerful, they look like they have never been touched by a human being, and that’s what I needed. The light is very reduced here in winter, and we are not shooting with any electrical lighting, just natural light. And every single scene is so difficult — emotionally, technically.

But this just screams off the film screen. I have never experienced anything like it before. I’ve never seen such gorgeous panoramas or such amazing vistas. There were shots that just took your breath away. Frozen lakes and mountain vistas. Claustrophobic foggy scenes set in amongst aspen groves. Roaring rivers. Frozen, wind blasted country sides. It’s a wonder that the film crew survived the shoot, let alone the fact that Hugh Glass survived anything even remotely like it.

I found myself just shuttering down through my core at a couple of the different sections of the film. The worst, obviously, was the time when Leonardo climbs into the carcass of a horse in order to survive the coming of a storm. At first I chuckled to myself that this was a real life reenactment of Han Solo putting Luke Skywalker in a tonton on Hoth. But I quickly dispatched that thought as I watched the actor, honestly doing this very very terrible thing, right in front of my eyes. Another was the bear mauling. Someone, anyone, please tell me how they did this shoot. Because, as far as I can tell… they hired a bear, pissed it off something terribly, and then had it beat the daylights out of DiCaprio. Can’t think of another way that they got this shot. None. Man in a bear suit? Nope. CGI? Obviously not. It really is something else to watch.


The Revenant and the Acting

The two main actors that carry this movie from start to finish are Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Initially, there were discussions with Sean Penn about playing opposite DiCaprio in the role of Fitzgerald. But Penn was wanting to direct a project of his own, and so he dropped out. Hardy though, brings the acting chops necessary to counterbalance Leonardo’s brilliant role.

“It was a different type of challenge for me, because I’ve played a lot of very vocal characters. It’s something that I really wanted to investigate — playing a character that says almost nothing. How do you relay an emotional journey and get in tune with this man’s angst … without words?”

Leonardo’s lines are more grunted then spoken. Most of the movie he is too injured and sick to really provide eloquent exposition. Hardy on the other hand waxes eloquent regularly as he explains his behavior away to those that are dubious of his actions. Hardy’s playing of Fitzgerald is sort of a cross between his Bane role and his role in Locke. And now that I think of it, Leonardo’s role is more like Hardy’s role in Mad Max… which is a funny role reversal now that I think about it.

Regardless, it’s interesting to think about how filming with natural light changed the way in which the acting was achieved. Leonardo said that the filming was more like a play or a ballet than anything else:

“To pull off these complicated sequences, like a ballet, movement needed to be precise,” DiCaprio says. “When it came down to that nail-biting moment to capture that magic light, every day was like putting on a mini-piece of theater. If we lost that one hour, if we didn’t accomplish what we had to accomplish, we were there the next day. And oftentimes many of these locations were very remote. So it was a very intense set, because we knew we only had one shot every single day. Otherwise … we would be back there again.”

Which makes sense seeing as though Iñárritu is the master of long takes. The whole of it pulls together into one long amazing vision of acting and visions unseen before. A nine month shoot seems almost short considering what they achieved on this film.

The Revenant & Revenge

In the movie, the ending is one of the most intense scenes ever filmed. The final revenge between Glass (Leonardo DiCapprio) and Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is unlike anything I’ve ever personally seen. I jumped a number of times as I watched it unfold. And ultimately, just before the final blow is struck by Glass – he considers the words of his Pawnee travel partner, that revenge is for God alone, and he chooses not to strike Glass down. Instead he shoves the man into the river and the Indians that have be trailing Glass the entire movie finally (and a bit conveniently) arrive to kill Fitzgerald and then send him on his way down the river.

But in real life, is this how it happened? No, not at all. But if you take the time to read the Revenant, or read through the letters and newspaper articles you’ll see that the story is even more exciting and thrilling than the movie at parts. But the ending is a bit less climactic. Glass spends close to a year hunting Fitzgerald down. He learned that Fitzgerald had gone on to Fort Atkins in Nebraska, and finally caught up with the man. Did he decide to savagely bludgeon the man to death for leaving him for dead in the wilderness? Nope. Seems like real life consequences for killing someone overrode fiction. Fitzgerald had become a soldier in the army, and killing a uniformed man basically meant that he’d be hanged. And so, he took back his weapons, and then went on his way. But it does not lesson the account of a man attacked by a bear and left for dead in the wilds of the early American plains. On the contrary, it makes me want to read more about the man even more.

Glass’ Final Days

All this made me very curious as to what really happened to Glass. I found this quote out on Wikipedia, that I quickly corroborated in a few newspaper articles of the times, specifically the Milwaukie Journal, wherein a visitor at Fort Union shared such an account of Hugh Glass’s death.

“Old Glass with two companions had gone to Fort Cass to hunt bear on the Yellowstone, and as they were crossing the river on the ice, all three were shot and scalped by a war party of 30 Aricaras.”

Seems like the man was destined to die at the hands of Indians eventually, regardless of our desires at Political Correctness. Personally I think there should be several different memorials to this larger than life giant of a man. Ten years out on the icy plains, and still surviving? Amazing. Surviving multiple run ins with hostile indians? I saw we create a Gofundme page and get statues erected immediately. But even with the movie diverging significantly at the ending, I still think the movie is a gorgeous portrayal of Glass’ life and adventures.

The Revenant Explained

hugh-glass-and-pawnee-wife-revenantThere are though, a few areas wherein the Revenant wanders off the reservation from an inexplicability standpoint. The main area that was tough to understand at first for me was Glass and his relationship with his wife, the Pawnee Indian. Most of this relationship is told during wild eyed crazy flash backs that just didn’t make sense at first. But if you flip back through Glass’ real history and cobble it together with what we know from the movie we can get an idea of what happened. It is true that a half a dozen years earlier he spent a year with the Pawnees. He was moments being killed via immolation. A white man next to him was killed in such a fashion, but when his time came, Glass pulled vermillion from his pocket and calmly handed it to the chief. And just like that, Glass was spared. Hugh Glass then lived with his Pawnee captors for several years, wherein he married a Pawnee woman. I wasn’t able to find much more about her from the History books at all.

But the movie would have us believe that Glass’ time with the Pawnee Indians ended with an attack on their village. And it was during this time that his wife (whom he apparently loved very dearly) was killed. Which could have been the case, but there is no information about her at all that I could find anyway. The movie then carries the narrative of the father and the son forward, which brought them to join the fur trappers. Some of these scenes between Glass and his Indian wife, and his recently killed son are some of the most interesting and most curious of the movie. There is a scene where Hugh is standing in the ruins of a church and he is holding on to his son for dear life. But when he comes to he is holding on to the base of a tree that had grown in the center of the church. And while these scenes are complicated, I think we can see clearly enough that Hugh Glass’ wife and son visited him when he needed them most. When he was dehydrated, and bleeding out. When he was famished and out of his mind with fever. These scenes definitely depict the past and present in very interesting ways to the viewer. Both telling of his past, as well as telling of his current delusional state. Are there other sections of the film that still baffle you? Comment and we’ll get them answered and the post updated right away. But for me, those were the areas that made me really think hard during my first viewing.

The Revenant Conclusion
The movie is worth a second and a third viewing. And all the Oscars inevitably bestowed upon it won’t be enough to account for the crazy shoot, and the low box office (anything this movie takes in will be too low for it’s amazing quality). What were your thoughts on the movie? I’d love to hear more about what you think. Definitely didn’t mean to go on for over 4,000 words. But this movie was definitely worth it. Definitely a fantastic viewing experience that I will highly recommend to anyone I come across that hasn’t yet seen it.

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37 Responses

  1. James

    I’d genuinely be surprised if this film wins more than 3 Oscars. It’s a great film technically, and for that it will win only technical Oscars such as cinematography and make up etc.

  2. Taylor Holmes

    Hey James,
    thanks for the comment. Seriously? Do you really think Leonardo will lose again? This is by far his best performance ever. Like, nothing even comes close to it. If he loses for this, there is no way, on God’s gloriously green earth, he’ll ever win. Never. And heck, Tom Hardy should win too. Way better performance than his more recent ‘Legend’ movie… even though he acted in two roles side by side. That felt more like a gimmick than any sort of legit deal. Anyway. That is amazing to me you think he’ll lose again.

    Thanks again for swinging through.

    • Jeremy

      You need to read “The Frontiersman” by Allen Eckart … About the frontiersman named Simon Kenton … This guy, whom most all the Indians knew by his size and hair, make Hugh Glass seem like he stubbed his tiny toe.

    • lorie

      I’m not a huge fan of Leanardo but he is amazing in this movie. Excellent acting!! I loved Evey bit of this movie.

  3. Jacob

    Just got finished watching it and I thought it was a great movie and it never got slow even with the long run time..the only thing that I confuses me is the ending with his wife walking away!

    • Taylor

      Hey Jake,
      Yeah – I recall that scene. I wondered about that scene too. It sort of felt like it was some sort of closure between Glass and his wife about his getting closure with their son’s death. She definitely was there throughout the entire movie and was pushing him on.

      Dunno, what do you think?

      • Benjamin

        To ellaborate on what you said earlier Taylor, that Hugh Glass envisioned his wife when he was in times of need, but at the end of the film he has avenged his family and he doesn’t need them anymore. It is up to interpretation obviously, but this is my version of it.

    • Diego

      Both Glass and his wife knew that as long he had breath left in him that he had to keep on fighting, he just couldn’t give up and die. That’s why he was left so emotional when his wife walked away. He knew that it wasn’t time to be with his family

      He told his son to keep fighting when he was about to die at the beginning of the film, and know he has to tell this to himself at the end.

      That’s why you here strong breathing when the screen cuts to the credits

  4. Mick

    The ending was spoiled by the fact that I couldn’t work out why the Indians left him alone after killing Fitzgerald

    They had tracked him for days and yet just walked passed him

    • Taylor

      Hey Mick,
      I’m definitely going to add this detail to the blog proper. I definitely feel I have an answer for this one. And it specifically has to do with the fact that he saved the Chief’s daughter. I should go look up her name in the movie… Powaqa, that’s it. Glass intervened on Powaqa’s behalf – saved her, allowed her to kill the man raping her, and then escape. Powaqa, then tells her father, and when they finally get her, they are still very close to overcoming Glass. When they do, he is in the act of killing Fitzgerald, and they not only don’t hurt Glass, but they assist him in killing Fitzgerald, which does two things.

      1. Allows Glass not to murder out of vengeance, and to let God have justice.
      2. Allows the audience to get closer on the entire Powaqa thread which Glass may or may not have anything to do with initially.

      But yeah, that was a good point. Definitely need to clarify that in the post.

      • Matt

        Question – is it possible that Leo’s Pawnee wife was the Chief’s missing daughter? I have trouble reconciling the fact that the French, whom the Chief dealt with regularly, had his daughter captive the whole time. Plus, moments before Leo saves the girl, the Frenchman Toussaint exclaims, “bring me the girl, those horses weren’t free.” I thought that suggested that the girl was willingly traded for the horses (also in the bartering process the French mentioned they wanted a girl). I guess it would be hard to explain how they Chief didn’t know that Leo and his daughter were together, or that she was eventually killed in a raid, but I thought there were some strong suggestions that she was the daughter that “ran off” with him, and the redeeming connection was Leo’s son – whose dead body the Chief comes across. Is this even possible?

      • Ron

        Some parts of this movie didn’t make any sense at all. Especially at the end. Who was that woman? Where did she come from? I felt really bad for DiCaprio’s horse. The horse became a shelter for DiCaprio! Was she his wife? If it was, it was never told in the movie.

    • Diego

      The Indian women who who was being raped by the french guy and who was helped by Glass in her escape was with the Indians at the end.

      She told her dad to spare his life.

  5. Jason

    Taylor, forgive me for not remembering specifics but I think you will get the gist of my question. At one point during one of Glass’ flashbacks of his wife’s village being burned, they show an Army soldier very briefly. The soldier looked like Hardy to me. My guess is that it wasn’t Hardy but another soldier that Glass killed based on comments from his trapping party. BUT it sure looked like Hardy! Can you expound on that? Thanks!

  6. David James

    I think this is a fascinating, breathtaking film. It was also an ordeal – I spilled my drink twice, the crotch of my jeans still smells faintly of Don Q and coke.

    In the final scene, McKenzie jeeringly proclaims “this wont bring your boy back”. At this point it seems Glass has lost it all, and that the entire odyssey was a waste. Yet as Taylor explains, it is when Glass refuses to kill, just releasing McKenzie into the river, that he perhaps finds some kind of closure…

    What I still need to know, is what his wife says to him. It isn’t translated, though it seems to bring Glass to some kind of resolution. Why isnt it translated? What does she say?

    Or is it all nonsense, and is that final wide eyed stare from Di Caprio showing us how lost he is?

  7. HS

    Wondering if you have a view on the lost bear cloak. Or did I miss something? It appears that he loses the bear cloak when he jumps off the cliff with the horse.

  8. Honey Jackson

    Can anyone tell me if they used a “real horse”, to go over the cliff,or,I hope it was,CGI?If the director used a real horse,that’s killing an animal,then,where were the animal advocates?I hope no animals were harmed in this movie!

  9. Geralt

    Hm, frankly I thought they overdid the water scenes to the point of absurdity.
    When you fall into icy water, even completely healthy and without any injuries whatsoever and then get back into the cold, still wearing your clothes that quickly turn into a hard and ice cold vise and spend the night that way, without fire or any warmth then I’m pretty sure you’re not going to live long.
    And it’s not that he did that once or twice, no he did it all the time. Even waded into ice cold water when there was no need to do so. I sincerely doubt if that’s how it happened.


      Thanks for this resource, it is really cool (sorry couldn’t think of a better adjective, it is early on the west coast). I like that it is simple and relatively easy to understand. I guess this is the appeal in the children aspect that it is something they can grasp and engage with.

  10. Madison

    Do you have any ideas about the symbolic nature of the abandoned church? I was finding it hard to believe that a church could have been built, and abandoned in this area before the mid 1800s (or whenever the movie was set). I understand that the basis of exploration was for trade and the spread of religion, however I find the abandoned church to be unlikely. What do you think?

  11. Alara

    AMAZING EXPLANATION!!! Thanks for doing the research and shining light on the true story as well. It was dearly interesting to read your article and compare it with the movie. Such a fantastic film with an enthralling story line :)

  12. Alara

    Adding on to my previous comment, I was wondering if you had any opinions regarding the ending of the movie. Was the Native American chief ever able to find his daughter? Was the woman that was getting raped by the French (and eventually saved by Glass) the Chief’s daughter or was that another Native woman? And at the final scene of the film where the Chief and Glass crossed paths, was the Native woman that Glass saved on one of the horses? Thanks!

    • Chuck Kollars

      Yes, it was the chief’s daughter who was being used as a sex slave by the French trappers. (BTW, the _same_ trappers who gave the Indians arms and ammunition [and reluctantly eventually horses] to search for the chief’s daughter:-) And yes, that was the woman riding behind the chief at the end. The fact that Glass abetted her escape was enough to keep him from being killed …but not enough to get the Indians to actually stop and touch and aid him. It’s not clear to me whether or not they knew he was badly wounded and would probably die if they didn’t stop. I wish I could have more thoroughly followed the dialog when the lone French trapper came into the fort – as my _guess_ was the chief’s daughter, when she eventually met up with the chief, told him enough of what actually happened to result in the Indians attacking the French trappers and killing all but that one. In any case, I’d like very much to hear what this all means, as I’ve had no luck making much sense of it myself.

  13. Chuck Kollars

    “… the bear mauling. … please tell me how they did this shoot. … CGI? Obviously not. …”

    Why is it so “obvious” that it’s not CGI? After all, the tiger in ‘Life of Pi’ is entirely CGI, why not this bear too?

  14. Janice

    I just saw The Revenant today. However, I knew Leonardo DiCaprio was/is deserving of his first Oscar after seeing the trailer. I rooted for him to win for The Wolf of Wall Street, and now it’s his year. I feel the film was epic, harrowing and haunting. Innaritu should get Best Director and the Revenant Best Film.

  15. Martin

    I can’t believe there’s only one mention of that final stare at the camera. It ruined the film for me. Don’t get it at all. I assume there is some specific reason, as innaritu makes the effort to emphasise the camera in earlier scenes ie blood and breath on the lens. For me I found it contradicted the natural way in which every other aspect of the story was shot and told. Also, not sure Leo deserves an Oscar for this. He is far better in Wolf of Wall st. But let’s remember that oscars are not a true reflection of talent. Just look at his nomination for Blood Diamond!

    • Janice

      I actually started to write about my interpretation of the final scene, but when I remembered you had written that Hugh Glass didn’t kill Ryan Hardy’s character per what you read, I decided not to. But here goes. Hugh’s son reminded him of the story his mother used to tell about the wind, the strong tree trunk, etc. When Hugh was suffering and needed to go on, he had visions of his wife where she retold the story in her native language with subtitles. This recurred at his lowest points during the film until she only spoke without the use of subtitles. That is, until the last scene, when she smiled at him and turned. I think he followed her to the next life. He had already said he was not afraid of dying and now that he sought revenge, he was ready to go.

    • Taylor Holmes

      The reason I haven’t responded is because I know what you are referring to, but I have no idea what you are talking about. The ending is poignant because he chose NOT to kill him. He let up. He allowed justice to be placed in the hands of God. And yet, the audience gets their justice from the hands of the Indian Chief. The look was their sharing this insight, this knowledge. That look was the deeper lesson he learned and the importance of it. To me it seems a little intense that this moment would be the one to hang you up. Especially in a movie this intense and this crazy good. But whatever.

  16. Mary Carmen Morales

    I enjoy your writing. I enjoy every comment. Thanks a lot. One question, Glass saving the daughter of the chief was a true event?

    • Taylor Holmes

      Aren’t you kind?!?
      No, there was no Indian Chief’s daughter that was saved by Glass in real life that he wrote about or told stories about. He did live with the Indians for a while, but nothing strange or wild happened while he was there.

      Ps – I just realized that a ton of you have commented here since this post. Somehow I wasn’t getting notifications. I’ll try and work through some of your comments and questions when I get a moment.

  17. Pam

    Please explain your interpretation of the cease scene where Fitzgerald and the young trapper are cooking meat. I believe they were eating dead Indian and not hogs. Those ribs hanging by the fire looked like human ribs. Fitzgerald was telling a tale and sounded extremely demented I felt his sick mind really was revealed in this scene. He also asked the young boy to look away at the end of the scene. Why do you think he said this? In my mind this degenerate,disgusting man may have used a corpse to satisfy his sexual urges.

  18. LV

    This is one of the BEST 5 movies I have ever seen in my 53 years. My Lord! They stepped it up to a COMPLETE OTHER LEVEL! Amazing Cast, amazing acting and just “off the chain”!

  19. Marc

    I found the church scene particularly powerful. When Glass approaches the church, it is in a state of advanced decay, nature is balancing out what man had created. There in that balance between the western religious physical structure and imagery (you see Hades or whoever eating that guy), he meets his son. His son, who was half native and half western European, stands in the middle of the church. The decaying church itself is half nature (representing the native world view) and half western religion. In that moment, who is to say why his son appeared? Was it a hallucination? Was it his spirit? To me it showed the ridiculousness of labeling that which we do not understand (even if it was only a hallucination) as this or that religion. I’m having a very hard time articulating what I think Iñárritu was trying to convey.

  20. Someonewhoreadmorethanwatchingthemovie

    Lol, y’all do some research. He didn’t have a son. There was no documention of it if he did. The group paid two explorers to stay behind and give him a proper burial. As he had sustained the wounds from a bear attack. Glass eventually caught up with the group and forgave them. He didn’t see anyone kill a son he may not have had. Lololol people see based on or inspired by true events and take it to heart thinking it’s real.


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