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Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Revenant

Hugh Glass walking across a frozen lake
The Revenant is a great movie of a horrific story about Hugh Glass. The story is takes place during the winter of 1823 in Montana and South Dakota, and it's cold. It certainly casts the American frontier in a new light. Most of the stories we tell about the wild west, or at least the ones I remember, are all about how wonderful it all was with the sun shining, birds singing, trees towering. And those parts do exist, but you don't want to be out in the woods in the middle of winter in the Northern Plains with nothing but a tomahawk.
    Hugh Glass and his cohorts were on a trapping expedition, killing animals and collecting their skins to carry back to civilization in order to make some money. There must have been good money to be made in order to attract people to this kind of enterprise, because it certainly wasn't easy, comfortable or safe. It did get you away from civilization, which I admit does have a certain appeal.
    All this got me to wondering why people were even this far north in the first place. Being hot can be unpleasant, but if you have water and shade and you can sit still, you can survive. But being cold sucks big time. It takes real effort to stay warm, firewood, houses, heavy clothes. What a pain. Why would anyone choose to live in the north? And then it came to me: bugs. Before the age of modern medicine, people were frequently struck down with all sorts of fatal maladies. I'm thinking that this happened more frequently to people who lived in warm climates. Who knows why they started moving north, maybe it was just to get away from all the people who were dying and north was just some random direction. But the people who moved north weren't beset with as many of these fatal diseases. Surviving made all the hard work worth while, and now we have central heating, so hey, best of both worlds, I'm alive and I'm warm.

    There was one character, John Fitzgerald, who is just the most unpleasant sort of person. He argues against every decision the captain makes. He is more concerned about making money than about anyone's survival, although to be fair, his own survival is not all that important either. If he can't make any money he may as well be dead. He is the villain here, and befitting his villainous role he is not without skills, which leads to big fight in the final scene.
    These big fight scenes at the end of movies are starting to annoy me. People keel over left, right and center all through the movie just by being shot through the head with a bullet of an arrow, but at the end of the movie we have a desperate struggle that goes on for hours during which the combatants sustain dozens of non-fatal injuries, and it's only through some miracle that the good guy manages to prevail. Bleh.

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