A word on historical accuracy
So, this film is based on a true story. The true story is wildly different from this one in the following ways:
- The true story says nothing about a son or a Native American partner
- The true story has a very different ending
- The true story has a very different Native American subplot
These may seem unimportant, but I think that there’s enough that they should have skipped the whole “true story” thing. Perhaps – since the facts are short on this “true story” in the first place – they should have said it was based on an American Legend. Regardless, I don’t really care about historical accuracy.
Thoughts on the film
So, if you dislike Leonardo DiCaprio, this will be your favorite DiCaprio film. Leo spends most of the film mute, and in extreme pain. If you like Leo, then you will be disappointed that this is not his best performance.
The film starts with Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) working with and guiding a group of fur traders. In this company is John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Capt. Andrew Henry (Domhall Gleeson), Bridger (Will Poulter), and many others. Eventually they end up wandering through the woods trying to escape a band of Natives known as Arikara who were not trying to be particularly friendly at all.
While they’re in the woods, Glass wonders off hunting and stumbles upon a grizzly bear and her cubs. He is brutally – and I mean brutally – mauled by this bear. Somehow he manages to kill the bear, but not before he has more holes in him than the sum of all prior characters played by Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s actually pretty well done, the whole scene, and I find it to be the most compelling scene in the whole film.
This is what a grizzly bear looks like:
Quick Note About the Cinematography
While I didn’t think that this film was a compelling story, nor did I love the acting, the cinematography was breathtaking. I wish I had watched this in IMAX because the cinematography was phenomenal. I walked away pining for NatGeo. The mountains, the rivers, OMFG the bear.
I found the bear scene amazing. I had never really thought of what being mauled by a bear would look like, but I found this film’s take on it entirely believable. Did I mention that I liked the bear scene?
I kinda felt like we watched two movies stuck together in an awkward hodgepodge. In one you’ve got a survival film where it’s man-against-wild, in the other you’ve got a film which is a movie about righteous vengeance. I don’t know why they had to mix that up like that, it seems like the whole child aspect was unnecessary given the historical account they claimed to be portraying and it really distracted from the survival aspect.
I found the Native American appropriation to be a bit weird as well. Nothing demonstrates how Native Americans lived well off of the land like a white man doing it while fondly remembering how Natives taught him to fight to survive. I found that part offensive to say the least.
I loved the cinematography, and I thought that the final chase scene was actually fun to watch. Acting-wise, I thought that everybody except for Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter disappointed. Leo especially disappointed, and I have really been a big fan of his lately.
If you can see this film in IMAX, do it for the gorgeous camera work (cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki deserves all of the awards, this film is gorgeous). If you can’t see it in IMAX, see it in standard format but don’t pay full price. If you want to wait, I won’t judge you for waiting to see it until it shows up in a Redbox.
I don’t know how to rate this film quantitatively. Normally I’d say something like “four out of five bear claws.” Since this was really two movies squished together, I would say I give the chase sequence three out of five bear claws, and the survival piece gets three out of five bear turds.