The film is loosely based on the real-life story of frontiersman Hugh Glass, but (I smirk to admit it) it really played out a lot like Deadpool 2. “A seriously injured man recovers miraculously and devotes his life to avenging himself on the man who wronged him.” Same movie! Just slightly different details. You know, for one there is a lot less dialogue in The Revenant, and quite a bit more agonizing cold. But judge for yourself.
The year is 1823. Frontiersman Hugh Glass is in the company of General William Ashley (known as Captain Andrew Henry in the film) on a fur-trading expedition up the Missouri River. An attack by the Arikara tribe takes them by surprise, and they escape by boat after taking very heavy casualties. It appears that they are attacked because Arikara chief Elk Dog believes that the Americans have kidnapped his daughter.
Glass and his son, a teenaged boy he has fathered with a Pawnee woman, serve as the scouts for the party – many of whom (particularly Fitzgerald, who has survived a partial scalping in a prior expedition) do not find the son trustworthy, and Glass is constantly advising his son on the etiquette of not angering the white man. But all this goes out the window when Glass is savagely mauled by a bear.
He is severely wounded, and though the party initially makes an effort to carry him to safety at the nearest fort it becomes evident that will not work. In the belief that Glass will soon die of his wounds, Captain Henry asks for volunteers to stay behind and then bury him when the time comes. Two volunteer – Jim Bridger (a young kid who will later become one of the foremost frontiersmen of the century) and Fitzgerald. Bridger stays out of pity, but Fitzgerald stays only because of a bounty offered by the Captain. Of course Glass’ son stays behind as well.
Unfortunately, Glass doesn’t die quickly enough for Fitzgerald’s taste. Despite the fact that Glass is unable to speak due to his injuries, Fitzgerald believes he has come to an “agreement” with Glass to euthanize him while Bridger and the son are away, and attempts a smothering. However, Glass’ son stumbles upon the scene and is not terribly sympathetic to this situation. Fitzgerald murders the son in full sight of the immobile father, hides the body, and then tells Bridger that he has seen a tribe of Arikara warriors approaching, convincing him to abandon the still-alive Glass shallowly covered in dirt.
This is when Glass starts to go all Deadpool. He recovers enough to claw his way out of his grave, dragging a mangled and clearly compoundly-fractured foot (the thing is off at a right angle) which he is able to limp around on just a few days later.
Armed only with a canteen with a spiral idly scratched onto it by Bridger, Glass sets out through the wilderness to take his revenge on the murderous Fitzgerald. He encounters a Pawnee refugee who provides some food and hotboxes him before being captured and killed by some French-Canadian traders. It turns out that it is these traders who have in fact kidnapped Elk Dog’s daughter, and Glass sets her free while stealing a horse.
Then, while being pursued by the Arikara (who apparently haven’t yet figured out that he freed their princess) he and the horse go off a huge cliff and Glass survives by landing in a tree. Yeah. That’s not actually the most ridiculous part. He subsequently cuts the dead horse open Taun-taun style to sleep in overnight.
But a survivor of Glass’ attack on the French-Canadians stumbles into Fort Kiowa, where he presents the spiral canteen as the canteen of the attacker. Bridger assumes it must be Glass’ son, but Fitzgerald, knowing who was definitely dead and who was only mostly-dead-all-day, figures out the score and loots the fort’s safe before high-tailing it into the wilderness before the truth is out.
Things go pretty quickly after that (and mercifully, because we’re probably already 2:20 into the film) with Glass making it back to Fort Kiowa and insisting on going out with Captain Henry to capture Fitzgerald. In short, they split up, Fitzgerald kills Henry, and Glass catches up with him, leading to a no-holds-barred superhero fight in the wilderness. Glass gets the upper hand and is going to kill Fitzgerald by a river when he sees the Arikara just a bit downstream and instead floats the injured Fitzgerald downriver to let the Arikara kill him instead.
Because somehow that takes the blood off of his hands. Ha. Anyway, the end.
When reading about he real-life Hugh Glass, one realizes that the film has taken some pretty major liberties with his story. Yes, he was mauled by a bear and left to die by Fitzgerald and Bridger, but that’s about the extent of the similarities. Glass was in fact wed to a Pawnee woman, but if he had a Pawnee son he was uninvolved in the incident (and couldn’t have been any older than 5 at the time). Furthermore, Glass took no revenge on anybody. He apparently forgave Bridger due to his youth, and while he confronted Fitzgerald, he did not kill him because he would then have been executed for murdering a U.S. soldier. Glass died about a decade later in (shocker) an Arikara attack.
As for the movie…it was long, there wasn’t much dialogue, and it looked very cold. On top of that, it had problems – Glass was always exactly as injured as he needed to be to advance the plot, which meant that he went from bad, to not-so-bad, to bad again, to totally better, and it also meant that his 90-degree ankle healed in quite short order (because we couldn’t have a movie with the main character crawling helplessly through the wilderness forever.) But that factor also made it a bit silly. And really, the only thing that drove the film was Glass’ vengeance. So, miraculously healing injuries, vengeance, nifty red suit – it was Deadpool.