The Revenant is a contest of brute strength between man and beast, white man and Injun, Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hardy. The film is based on the true story of Hugh Glass, a 19th-century fur trapper who was mauled by a bear and left for dead by his comrades. Angered at their apathy, Glass endured an excruciating 200-mile journey through unforgiving terrain to exact revenge.
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu adds a dash of multiracial angst to the mix. The fur trappers are in a state of constant war with the Ree, an Injun tribe, who are in a state of constant war with the Pawakee – a neighbouring tribe. The French are there to pillage and rape. Hugh Glass has a child with a Pawakee mother, a strapping boy of fifteen named Hawk. As is the demand in such situations, Glass is admired as a trapper, but distrusted because of his friendship and sympathy for the apparent savages.
The film carries many trademark Iñárritu moments. In the battle scene which erupts on the screen within the first five minutes, the camera plays a game of tag, choosing one subject first and upon their death, picking up their assailant. The director used this technique in Birdman too, smoothly transitioning between scenes by following the actors as they stepped in and out of the green room, lending a fluidity to the narrative which otherwise might have felt claustrophobic. In the Revenant, with its wide open spaces, it just made me dizzy.
If I take away something from The Revenant, it is the sheer natural beauty of the film. Nature reigns supreme in this gore-fest, river waters washing away the last of the blood and smoke after a battle and the clouds raining down on both warring factions grieving for their dead – highlighting the futility of it all. Gloriously shot by Emmanuel Lubezki, the sweeping icy landscape of 19th century America is no more static, no more a mere background, with the unsteady slopes and torrential rivers playing a major role in defining characters and story.
Di Caprio as Glass carries The Revenant on his able shoulders. Tom Hardy as the mercenary Fritzgerald was the perfect foil to Glass – he was in it for the money and would exert any means necessary to lay his hands on it. Fitzgerald’s absolute lack of principles made Glass the bigger hero, his quest all the more worthy of cheer. But the film lacked synergy – there were multiple parallel plots which did not mesh because neither were explored to their potential. In the end, it boiled down to one man’s lust for revenge for the murder of his boy. Call it the tragedy of expectation, but after the brilliant nuances of Birdman, this linearity was disappointing from Iñárritu.
Gulaab Gang is Dabangg. Period. Replete with seeti worthy moments, the movie is not a serious portrayal of women empowerment or an eye-opener about how women are tortured. It is Madhuri Dixit jumping over a jeep, axe in hand, and knocking down four men with a single blow, without a scratch on her face.
When Juhi Chawla, playing one of the most bad-ass roles (probably the first) of her career, makes a male politician crawl between the legs of her female secretary, it is no less “cringe-worthy” than Amrish Puri leching after Mamata Kulkarni’s heaving breasts in Karan Arjum. Mujhko rana ji maaf karna, but villains are supposed to provide “cringe-worthy” moments. That is why we cheer when the good guy comes along and beats the shit out of them.
I loved the movie, like I love Karan Arjun. Like I love Tarantino. Blood, gore, stunts, dialogues, Madhuri and Juhi Chawla locking horns, song and dance routines for no rhyme or reason and a gora news reporter who keeps popping up. What more can a girl, growing up during the 90s Bollywood era, want?