In the undeveloped wilderness of Montana during the 1820s, a frontiersman on a fur trading expedition fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. Now all he wants is revenge…
In 1823, large parts of today's Northern USA are still wild frontier lands. Not many of the European settlers in America venture out into this so-called "unorganized territory" – except for a few brave trappers who are hunting for fur and pelts on trading expeditions. Somewhere in modern-day Montana and South Dakota, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a frontiersman that actually existed, is part of such a fur trading expedition led by captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson).
Other members of the expedition are Glass' half–Pawnee son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), the blunt John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and the young Jim Bridger (Will Poulter). They move from place to place in relative harmony and also fight off the occasional attack by Native American tribes together. One day though, Glass ventures out into the woods on his own… and is attacked and mauled by an incredibly real-looking CGI grizzly bear!
A severely injured Glass is now left in the care of Fitzgerald, Bridger and Hawk while the rest of the group moves on. Unable to move or speak, John Fitzgerald tries to "mercy-kill" Glass when he gets a minute alone with him. However, he is discovered by Hawk, whom Fitzgerald then stabs to death while Glass watches helplessly.
The next morning, Fitzgerald convinces Bridger to abandon Glass and leave him to die… But, against all odds, Glass manages to survive – and finds back to his old strength. As he sets out on a difficult journey through the hostile world of the wilderness, he is driven by only one thought: to revenge the death of his son by hunting down and killing Fitzgerald…
Even though the story is set in the modern-day US states of Montana and South Dakota, most of the filming locations for The Revenant are situated in West Canada, more precisely Kananaskis Country near Calgary in the province of Alberta. Some scenes, including the bear attack, were also filmed at Squamish and Burnaby in the Canadian province of British Columbia.
Modern-day Montana was also used as a filming location though. It was at Kootenai Falls near Libby, Montana, USA where Glass (DiCaprio) flees from an approaching Native American tribe by jumping into the river.
Initially, the crew had planned to shoot the entire film in Canada, but due to the snow melting early, the filmmakers were forced to move the production to a region which is also known as "the end of the world": The final fight between Glass and Fitzgerald was filmed in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
Read more about how to trace Leonardo's footsteps in the snow in Canada!
Of course lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio gave this film his all by enduring freezing temperatures that sometimes dropped down as much as to minus 30 degrees Celsius. In the end, all his hard work paid off: For The Revenant, DiCaprio finally won his first Oscar after waiting for almost twenty years (ever since Titanic in 1997…).
However, the other players on the field should receive some credit, too! Particularly impressive was London-born Tom Hardy, who puts on a very authentic Southern States accent as the main villain of the movie – John Fitzgerald. Equally mesmerizing were fellow Brit Will Poulter as young Bridges and Irish acting talent Domhnall Gleeson as captain Henry.
The story is only loosely based on, or rather inspired by the real life of trapper Hugh Glass (read more in 13 Major Facts The Revenant Got Wrong). Furthermore, the film also is a strong portrayal of a very brutal time period in American history. Watching this film will not only make you aware of frontiersmen's braveness, but also the incredible injustice that the European settlers enforced on the Native American tribes.
Nevertheless, with The Revenant, Mexican director Alejandro G. Iñárritu created an amazing time travel experience on film, for example by insisting on exclusively shooting in natural daylight. Furthermore, the unusual camera movements, which get extremely close to the actors, let the viewers feel as if they are part of the action!
The final verdict:
After I've finished watching The Revenant, I felt really relieved that I only travelled to these harsh times in a movie and didn't live in America's 1820s frontier land for real. However, the realistic time travel experience of the movie is absolutely amazing and certainly acts as a great inspiration to explore the filming locations in Canada yourself!
***** 5 out of 5 stars