It’s hard to know where to start. This film is startlingly beautiful and hard to watch. It made me want to hike out into the Montana wilderness and, simultaneously, made me never want to leave the city limits of my home.
So, in short, the story. Hugh Glass (Leonardo Dicaprio) is the frontiersman guide for a bunch of American trappers in the wilds, led by Captain Henry (Domnhall Gleeson) and including antagonistic Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and young Bridger (Will Poulter). They’re attacked by a party of Arikara natives, loose most of their men, and leave on the river boat. Since the “Ree” are still tracking them, they dump the boat and go overland.
Unfortunately (unless you’re a fan of amazing special effects), Glass is attacked by a bear. And, yes, the scene is as good as you’ve heard. Glass is at death’s door, tended to mostly by his half-Pawnee son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). Captain Henry wants to get everyone home alive, but it becomes impossible to carry Glass up and over the mountain, so he offers a cash bonus to whoever stays with Glass “until it’s over”. Hawk, Bridger, and, surprisingly, Fitzgerald all agree.
I won’t spoil anything else, except to say Glass is, for most of the film, alone in the wilds, trying to survive long enough to put wrongs right.
Every performance is spot on, and I’d even like to do a shout-out to the native guy who helps Glass about halfway through the film, but I don’t know the character’s name, and I can’t tell from IMDB who it was. Anyway, he was awesome.
There’s some great commentary on race relations, on gender relations, on the nature of responsibility. None of that detracts from the straightforward revenge story, but it does add some nice layers. If I have to say something negative, I think there was maybe one too many dream sequences, but if this film wins the Best Picture Oscar, I would not be disappointed. It is extraordinary.