Revenant: one who returns after a long absence, or after death; a ghost.   Leonardo DiCaprio plays the title role in “The Revenant,” a scout/hunter in the early 1800s in the American wilderness who is badly injured in a Grizzly Bear attack.  Deep in hostile, Native American territory, DiCaprio’s hunting party decides to leave him and go on to the safety of the nearest fort.   Three men are left with Dicaprio (one of whom is the son of DiCaprio’s character, and another who is a hunter played by Tom Hardy) so that they may take care of the injured man and, if and when DiCaprio dies, give him a burial.  Days pass and DiCaprio manages to hang on, much to the disappointment of Hardy, who only thinks of himself and his need to escape the precarious situation he volunteered for.   Hardy decides to put DiCaprio out of his misery but DiCaprio’s son intervenes; Hardy kills the young man, then takes off with the other hunter under false pretenses of an impending attack by hostile, native tribes.

With the mantra of “as long as you keep breathing, you fight,” that is what DiCaprio does.   Slowly, very painfully, DiCaprio pulls himself out of the shallow grave that Hardy put him in.  What follows is a savage fight for survival against hunger, the freezing cold, and a war party of natives looking for a kidnapped daughter.    Each step, each breath takes DiCaprio closer to the man who killed his son.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Revenant” is the long, agonizing, cringe-inducing bear attack that DiCaprio endures.  Words cannot do justice to this scene…you just have to watch it.

Another memorable moment of this movie is the long, beautifully choreographed and directed scene of DiCaprio’s hunting party being attacked by an Arikara war party.  The camera goes into the heart of the fight, moving in all directions, going from one character to another, showing the brutality up close and from a distance, making the audience really feel as if we are in the middle of this barbaric struggle.

Of course, I have to mention the scene that had DiCaprio disemboweling a dead horse so he can go inside the body and keep himself warm during a snowstorm.  This memorable, movie moment reminds me of a scene in “Empire Strikes Back” that any “Star Wars” fan should be familiar with.

“The Revenant” has recently won many awards at the Golden Globes, and has received many nominations for the Academy Awards.  All the accolades this movie has garnered is not from hype.  This is a great movie about revenge and the will to survive, not just for DiCaprio, but also for Hardy.  To a lesser extent it is also about the destruction of Native American life and culture by the European settlers.   “The Revenant” is destined to be a classic.

— M