Hugh Glass’ indomitable spirit

Legend says American frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass died and rose from the dead. But that’s not case as told in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s film The Revenant that gathers a highly pedigreed cast. In the critically acclaimed masterpiece, Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear lacerating the flesh on his back and neck. He is severely wounded but he survives the ordeal.

The much talked-about emotionally-charged final scene in The Revenant 

Bloody but unbowed

After Glass is badly mauled by a female bear while hunting, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) argues that Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) will not survive the journey back to their base. He suggests killing him to speed up their journey. Their commander, Andrew Henry (played by Domnhall Gleeson) decides to offer payment for several men to stay behind the badly wounded Glass instead. Taking the offer are Fitzgerald, Hawk (Glass’s son played by Forrest Goodluck) and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter).

Once alone with Glass, Fitzgerald tries to smother his fellow fur trapper who’s strapped on an improvised stretcher. Hawk discovers Fitzgerald’s rather selfish/evil plan. A struggle ensues and Fitzgerald kills Hawk while Glass helplessly watches. When Bridger returns, Fitzgerald says Hawk is missing, and Glass is too injured to protest. Fitzgerald later lies that the Arikara (Native Americans who, in the film, hunt and kill white men) are nearby and that they must abandon Glass; he drags Glass into a makeshift grave. Bridger hesitates but then eventually flees with Fitzgerald.

At this point, the story now hovers around Glass and how Leonardo DiCaprio effectively portrays the character without the aid of any dialogue. Indeed, actions speak louder than words as the movie takes the audience to a virtual quest for survival relying solely on the actor’s painful groans and expressive eyes while overcoming his unimaginable adversities. It’s an immersive journey, to say the least, where a man’s spirit is put to the test facing conflicts with the forces of nature. Still bloody and severely wounded, Glass crawls and helps himself after being swept away by raging and frigid rapids, falling from a cliff and almost freezing while out in the chilly wilderness.

In the process, Iñárritu features how beautiful yet unforgiving unchartered American forests were back in the 19th century. To say the mise en scene is flawless is an understatement – every angle, with the use of natural lighting (as claimed by the director) is generously and picturesquely set from one frame to another ultimately succeeding in making the audience understand the unpredictable weather condition fur trappers experienced during that period.

For one, The Revenant is a very smart film executed in a very thrilling fashion with Iñárritu uncovering a reality that is believable yet difficult to imagine – a person who has to crawl over hundreds of miles while in constant battle with malnutrition, harsh weather condition and some savage Arikara. 

But as we all aware, Hugh Glass’s incredible tale of survival is a campfire legend. And what really happened to him depends on who tells the story. In The Revenant, by the time the film ends, the director’s fascinating interpretation of the story has already convinced the audience that his film speaks strongly not about the legend of the Pennsylvanian frontiersman but about the power of human’s indomitable spirit and that Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance is worthy of an Oscar.  

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