(director/writer: Alejandro G. Inarritu; screenwriters: Mark Smith/based in part on the novel by Michael Punke; cinematographer: Emmanuel Lubezki; editor: Stephen Mirrione; music: Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto; cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Hugh Glass), Tom Hardy (John Fitzgerald), Forrest Goodluck (Hawk), Duane Howard (Elk Dog), Arthur Redcloud (Hikuc), Kristoffer Joner (Murphy), Melaw Nakehk’o (Powaqa), Joshua Burge (Stubby Bill), Paul Anderson (Anderson), Domhnall Gleeson (Capt. Andrew Henry), Will Poulter (Jim Bridger), Grace Dove (wife of Hugh Glass), Lukas Haas (Jones); Runtime: 156; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Inarritu, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon, James W. Skotchdopole; 20th Century Fox release; 2015)

“Its revenge tale, for all its grimaces, is no greater than one found in ordinary B westerns.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The talented Mexican film director Alejandro G. Inarritu(“Birdman”/”Amores Perros“/”Babel”) bases the survivalist film in part from Michael Punke‚Äôs 2002 fact-based novel, which is set in 1823-24 in the territories that now make up the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. It’s co-written by Inarritu and Mark Smith, who were inspired by the true incident of a legendary tracker and fur trapper’s epic struggle to live in the face of death and get revenge on the evil trapper who done him wrong. But the filmmaker added his own fancy embellishments, and they turned me off by making an amazing true story subservient to a lesser bogus one.

Its faults are many and include it being overlong, too bleak, too inflated with contrivances, going for too gruesome a body count to be appealing and its revenge tale, for all its grimaces, is no greater than one found in ordinary B westerns. These faults might be overcome by the viewer taken aback by its epic scope, its gripping sense of harsh realism, breath-taking wilderness imagery (courtesy of the great cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki), intensity, a great scene of a CGI created bear attack on its hero and its ability to seamlessly blend together a survivalist/revenge thriller with a western. Despite an Oscar worthy performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, his best so far, it lacked the emotional pull to keep me tuned in throughout. Instead its insanely bloody narrative left my head ringing from the nightmarish dramatics and its agenda of showing the greedy nature of the whites.

While employed by a fur trading company as a tracker, a large grizzly bear attacks Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and before killed leaves the heavily clawed tracker for dead. Unable to be moved and looking more dead than alive, the leader of the trapper expedition, Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), leaves behind three men to care for him and give him a proper burial if necessary–his half-breed son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), the dim-witted awkward youngster Bridger (Will Poulter) and the ruthless mercenary loudmouth Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). The men under the captain are all trappers hired by the fur company, who were just attacked with arrows by an angry group of Arikara Indians. They want the furs to trade with another party of French trappers to get horses and rifles to track down the maiden Indian kidnapped by the whites.

Fitzgerald connives to leave Glass for dead, and manages to return to the base fortress and be thanked by the captain for looking after the dying Glass.

But Glass survives, haunted by ghostly visions of his absent Pawnee wife (Grace Dove), and follows the river back to the fur company’s fortress, where he exacts his revenge on the venal foe.

It was shot on locations in Canada and Argentina.