The Revenant written by Mark L. Smith and Alejandro Iñárritu, directed by Alejandro Iñárritu (Regency Enterprises, RatPac Entertainment, R, 156 min)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, and Forrest Goodluck.

The Forest for the Trees

We recently moved in close proximity to the mountains. As we take our exit, the freeway begins its carve through the rolling hills and mountains of the Cascades. Beneath the wisps of fog, forests of evergreen encompass the landscape like a 5 o’clock shadow.

When we enter our development, a copse of trees rests to our left, a solitary lookout over the hills and the first reference to the wild beyond our residence.

I’ve been wanting to explore the trail that leads to this small collection of wooded organisms. So, one day with my two-year old in tow, we made the minor climb to the tree line.

From afar, the woods seem slight. From within, the woods feel menacing. My boy wanted to explore and so we did for a few minutes, always keeping the entry/exit within sight.

The Forest Motif

Upon finding the safety of home soil, or more accurately, home carpet, I reflected upon the narrative symbolism of the forest. As long as we’ve been a society of storytellers, the forest has shouldered our motifs of evil, danger, and the occult.

In our fairy tales, the witches, monsters as goblins lived in the forest. In our modern renditions, the forest refuses to communicate the supernatural but it remains a potent reminder of our human frailty. While we eek out survival in our urban settings, we’re never prepared for the stark realities that emerge from a collection of trees.

Unsettling Film

Having finally carved out some time to watch the critically acclaimed film, The Revenant, I continued to think about that short trip to our local forest and how unsettled it made me feel.

The Revenant tells the story of survival and revenge. When guide and survivalist Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) endures a vicious bear attack, his group of trappers running from an ambush from the natives, leaves him for dead. Adding insult to injury, noted antagonist, John Fitzgerald (played admirably by Tom Hardy) murders Glass’ son (Forrest Goodluck) for good measure. Here, the film finds its arc as Glass recovers and begins a long trek back to the fort and impending retribution.

From a story perspective, The Revenant is pretty bare. Academy Award winning director Alejandro Iñárritu never earned his acclaim as a complex storyteller. But visually speaking, the stark natural setting and crisp lighting conjure a semi-beautiful and semi-menacing milieu.

While the film bores me on a narrative level, the cinematographic flourishes balance the film, even making it a slight win.

Plus, the film packs its emotional punch through reminding me of my innate fears of the forest. For those interested in seeing something aesthetically pleasing and less interested in an engaging story, check out The Revenant.

Verdict: 3 out of 5

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