12 January 2016

The Revenant

NOTE: This initial review was rooted in a cinematic appreciation of the movie, not necessarily a historical one. Following many criticisms of my review, I did a follow up review based on the accuracy of the movie instead. Mea culpa for what should have been my primary focus, being that I am, after all, a historian! The Revenant Review Follow-Up 

I finally went to see The Revenant. It's not a New France movie, but there is a tiny link as you will see. 

My overall opinion? Amazing movie. 

Loosely based on a true story (read here), the movie follows the quest for revenge of Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) after being left for dead following a bear mauling. If the true story is in and of itself amazing, this movie is a breathtaking cinematic retelling.

However, my theory is the more perfect a movie is, the more jarring the mistakes are, especially in one they tried so hard to be faithful to realism. Here are my qualms: 
  • The movie takes plenty of liberties regarding Hugh Glass (which I will begrudgingly give a pass, considering how little we know of him to begin with). 
  • Fur bales are a hell of a lot heavier than they make them look in the first scene.
  • The poignancy of the death of a native character was mitigated by my confusion over the placard that said "Nous sommes tous sauvages". I understand the movie makers wanted to make a startling commentary on what they thought meant "We are all Savages", but that is not the meaning nor the origin of the phrase. This sign is an anachronism taken in reality from La Salle's expeditions; the sign was found left behind by deserters who joined natives ("We are all wild/Indians"). Hence, the meaning of the sign is supposed to convey the opposite of what was intended by the filmmakers.
  • The audio often did not match what we were seeing in regards to forest shots and the wind we heard, and the lip sync with certain scenes where Natives spoke was terribly off.
  • I had a major beef with the fact they spent so much time justifying how Glass survived hypothermia, but dropped the ball when he threw himself in icy cold water for who knows how long and somehow survived without any means to warm up.
  • Finally, my biggest pet peeve, they hired French actors instead of French-Canadians to do the French trapper scenes. The accent and vocabulary left me feeling I was in a Parisian café instead of the middle of the wilderness. 
THAT said...
  • The movie's scope and scenery are breathtaking. 
  • The opening scene is one of the most amazing action sequences I've ever seen, making you feel as though you are physically there. 
  • The acting is superb (Tom Hardy might steal the show, however- I kept forgetting I was looking at Tom Hardy. Without taking away how amazing DiCaprio was as well. Both need Oscars).
  • The emotional punchline at the end knocked the wind out of me.
  • The action is amazing.
  • The effects are dazzling.
  • The entire way the movie was shot is how I always wished to see a historical movie, making you forget there are people behind the camera, without being reliant on blatant CGI either. 
All in all, this is one not to be missed on the big screen

FOLLOW UP: I stumbled on this opinion piece on Natives in cinema I think is well worth the read: http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/indigenous-peoples-stories-need-more-than-just-leonardo-dicaprios-speech


  1. Je n'allais pas commenter le film sur mon blogue, mais tu incites presque à le faire. On est d'accord sur la plupart des points, moins sur d'autres.

  2. The representation of French Canadians is not accurate for a film that relies on a true story. The French Canadians mingled more with the Natives than the English. They were not always nice guys, but not as repulsive as in the movie. I also agree with the written sign near the massacre. It looked rather like a graffiti from our time.

  3. French Canadian actor Roy Dupuis refused the role of a trapper in the Revenant - He asked to see the script before accepting the role, the producers refused to do so, so Dupuis declined the role - A decision which he doesn't regret, since after seeing the Revenant, the film has several historic innacuracies and depicts French-Canadian people very badly

    Source: http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/01/22/the-revenant-reaction-de-roy-dupuis_n_9057998.html

  4. Not historical accurate, not faithful to the book!



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