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The Revenant Ending, Explained

Tamal Kundu of The Revenant Ending, Explained

In its purest form, cinema is supposed to enthrall its audience by transporting them into its make-belief worlds and the characters that inhabit them through visual and auditory stimulations. ‘The Revenant,’ Alejandro González Iñárritu’s (‘Birdman’) revisionist western drama film based on the 2002 namesake novel by Michael Punke, goes a step further. It is so meticulous and evocative in its depiction of its characters’ struggles and urgency that the audience can feel them against their own skin and bones.

With the help of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (‘Gravity’) and co-scriptwriter Mark L. Smith (‘Martyrs’), Iñárritu has achieved something uniquely remarkable with ‘The Revenant,’ creating a film that is relentlessly gritty and dark in its portrayal of the American frontier. Yet, it bleeds with vivid beauty and the color of its setting in each scene. The film tells the story of fur trapper Hugh Glass ( Leonardo DiCaprio ) and his quest for vengeance against the man who killed his son and left him to die. Here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘The Revenant.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Revenant Plot Synopsis

The film is set in late 1823 in the seemingly limitless snowy territory of the present-day Dakotas. Glass and his half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), are part of a fur-trapping expedition led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) up the Missouri River. Danger lurks in the background, just beyond what naked eyes can see, taking the shape of the natives, local fauna, or nature itself.

As the trappers get ready to relocate to the next hotspot, they are ambushed by an Arikara war party searching for their chief’s abducted daughter, Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk’o). As the horror of a systematic slaughter unfolds around them, Glass, Hawk, and other survivors manage to escape their brutal attackers via a riverboat.

Accurately concluding that they will fall into the Arikara hands if they continue to travel by boat, Glass leads the survivors through the winter-struck landscape to Fort Kiowa. This means that the trappers have to leave most of the pelts they gathered during the expedition behind. It ends up creating a rift between Glass and fellow seasoned trapper John Fitzgerald ( Tom Hardy ).

revenant movie ending meaning

While out on patrol, Glass is savagely mauled by a grizzly bear. On the verge of death, Glass is left by Captain Henry under the care of Hawk, Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), with the clear instructions that if Glass were to die, Fitzgerald must ensure that Glass has received a proper burial to earn the $300 that Henry promises him (Fitzgerald).

However, with the threat of the Arikara still looming over them and Glass showing no sign of dying, Fitzgerald decides to take matters into his own hands and tries to suffocate Glass. When Hawk intervenes, Fitzgerald kills the boy and hides his body. He later convinces Bridger that the Arikara are coming, and if they want to survive, they must leave Glass behind.

Back at Fort Kiowa, Fitzgerald tells the story of his choosing to Henry, with Bridger being reluctantly complicit in at least one of Fitzgerald’s crimes. However, what none of them ever think can be possible happens. From somewhere deep within him, Glass finds the desire to survive. He makes the arduous trek back to Fort Kiowa on his own, crawling, walking, and riding the hundreds of miles of distance with a rare single-mindedness of a man seeking justice and vengeance.

The Revenant Ending: Does Glass Get His Revenge Against Fitzgerald?

Yes, to a degree. Of course, Iñárritu isn’t Quentin Tarantino, and ‘The Revenant’ isn’t ‘Kill Bill.’ There is no melodrama or sensationalism in the violence that takes place at the end of the former movie. Instead, it is cold, detached, and beautiful in its profound savagery, like the rest of the film.

revenant movie ending meaning

Early in the film, Iñárritu establishes the sheer dichotomy between his protagonist and antagonist simply by demonstrating their respective views on Native Americans. Those views guide their choices, and later, fatally culminate for one of them. Glass had a Pawnee wife, who was killed along with the rest of her tribe in an attack by the US Army.

He is still haunted by visions of his wife and a mountain of skulls. Despite the evident competition with the natives for resources, Glass doesn’t necessarily harbor any ill-will towards them. When he discovers that the Pawnee refugee, who saved his life, has been hanged by French hunters, he takes a brief detour from his main path of revenge, killing most of the hunters and freeing Powaqa.

revenant movie ending meaning

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Fitzgerald. During his service in the Army, a tribe of Native Americans partially scalped him, which has filled Fitzgerald with immense hatred for them. This becomes glaringly evident in his treatment of Hawk. Ultimately, understanding the reasons behind these two individuals’ actions can offer us a window to grasp the ending.

If Fitzgerald is propelled forward by greed and self-preservation, Glass’ desire to continue living stems from his endless love for his son. Beyond vengeance, this is what keeps him alive in the harshest environment imaginable. In the climactic scene, when Glass has the vengeance he so desires within his reach, he recalls the words of his Pawnee savior, “Revenge is in the Creator’s hands.”

revenant movie ending meaning

Those words resonate within him as he sends Fitzgerald downriver to the Arikara. With the wounds he has received during their vicious fight, Fitzgerald is not likely to survive the night. After all, he doesn’t have anyone who might have inspired the kind of desperation that Glass displays while surviving in the American Wilderness. So, it doesn’t ultimately matter what the Arikara decide. However, it is fundamentally ironic that, of all people, Fitzgerald gets his fate decided by Native Americans. And that, as Glass likely sees it, is vengeance in its truest sense.

What is Going to Happen to Glass? Will He Live On?

After Elk Dog (Duane Howard), the Arikara chieftain, kills and scalps Fitzgerald, they cross the river. In that particular moment, Glass is unsure about his fate. He has spent the past few weeks running away from the Arikara as he has chasing after Fitzgerald. But, now that he has his revenge, he waits for the Arikara with a surreal indifference. It is revealed that Powaqa is back with her tribe. She probably told her father what happened with the French hunters. The Arikara pass by Glass, and the hint of respect they show him before vanishing into the white surroundings is their way of offering gratitude.

revenant movie ending meaning

After the Arikara’s departure, Glass drags himself into the mountains. For the first time, he finds himself truly alone and aimless. And he can’t feed the fire of vengeance any longer to keep himself going. “You came all this way for revenge, huh?” Fitzgerald asks him before dying. “Well you enjoy it Glass, because there ain’t nothing gonna bring your boy back.”

The film becomes ambiguous at this point. Glass sees another vision of his wife, which might indicate that he will soon die and join his family in the afterlife. However, he continues to breathe loudly and strongly as the credits begin rolling, showing that he still might have some willingness to live. If the latter is true, then the determined survivalist will find a way to make it back to the town.

Read More:  Is The Revenant Based on a True Story?


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The Revenant Ending and Real History Explained

We examine what the The Revenant ending's final moments mean and what role the real history of Hugh Glass played in the film.

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This article contains The Revenant spoilers.

In the last two years, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu has delivered a pair of visionary films that’ve made a grizzly bear-sized impact on the cinematic conversation. 2014’s Birdman was an ode to pretension, ambition, and all those other wonderful virtues that drive artists mad. Nimble and talky with its theatrical levity, Birdman is quite clearly the inverse of The Revenant , a stoic and often wordless musing on man’s primal urges—including revenge—when cast against a primordial and uncaring world. Ostensibly an intimate story of suffering, The Revenant takes on a biblical scope when Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy are doing battle in the backdrop of a budding avalanche.

However, there is more in common with these two movies than merely their ability to play as awards voter catnip ( Birdman nearly swept the Oscars and if the Golden Globes of 2016 are any indication, The Revenant might repeat the trend). In fact, one of the most striking similarities is their preference for ambiguity and open-ended finality.

Buy The Revenant: A Story of Revenge by Michael Punke on Amazon.

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After seeing The Revenant twice now in the last two months—and with two different sets of people—I can confirm that there have been wildly different interpretations about the closing scene and just what Hugh Glass’ final audible breaths mean for both the character and his place in history.

But I suspect the whole meaning of the nigh three-hour film’s conclusion is explained right at the start of the picture.

As Long as You Can Still Grab Breath

The very first lines of dialogue in The Revenant are spoken by Leonardo DiCaprio with a Pawnee affection, yet their meaning remains crystal clear. “It’s okay son, I know you want this to be over. I’m right here. I will be right here. But you don’t give up. You hear me? As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe… keep breathing.”

These early words spoken by Hugh Glass to Hawk, his half-Pawnee son, are crucial to understanding the movie. In the immediacy, it introduces the theme of the story, as well as Glass’ love for a son whose mother was taken away by other white men. But it, more than any desire for revenge, is the true driving force for Glass’ stunning survival instinct.

And it comes just as much into play at the end of the film after Hugh Glass has hunted down John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and cornered him by a slushy creek. The most iconic scene in The Revenant, which is destined to become a classic moment of big screen brutality, is of course when the grizzly bear mauls Hugh Glass half to death in an agonizing steadicam shot that goes on for several minutes (plus an eternity). Yet, the final knockdown, drag out brawl between Glass and Fitzgerald is just as merciless.

Bones are smashed, fingers cut off, and hands impaled. By all accounts, both men appear mortally wounded, albeit Fitzgerald more so. Hence why he can barely protest when Glass sends his broken body down river like it’s a raft borne of flesh and leaking blood. Glass does this because he seems to have taken to heart the advice of his Pawnee savior from the midway point of the film. He is on course to suffer the fate of all tragic revengers if he personally takes Fitzgerald’s life.

… Plus it’s kind of a vicious boon that Fitzgerald despises Native Americans more than anything else. While Fitzgerald could keep a brave face and proudly mock Glass to his dying breath, the idea of the “savages” that took his scalp would now finish the job is akin to feeding an arachnophobe to a den of black widows.

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Yet, it’s after this moment that the ambiguity settles in. Just as Fitzgerald said before he died, “Well you enjoy it Glass, because there ain’t anything that’ll bring your boy back.” And indeed, with his revenge complete, Glass appears frightfully wounded and far from the safety of a fort. Thus there appears nothing left to him when the ghostly visage of his dead wife appears, apparently beckoning him toward the eternal.

The closing images of the film are of Hugh Glass watching in utter despair as she turns away from his snow-encrusted beard and walks into the distance while he keeps breathing. He keeps breathing even after the credits have begun.

Admittedly, one interpretation of this ending, which is entirely valid, is that Glass follows his long lost love to find peace with her and their murdered son, Hawk. The idea of an avenger finding peace in death after his revenge is complete remains a familiar and comforting ending every bit as satisfying as the often grimmer alternative of self- annihilation. Maximus was relieved to find his wife and son waiting for him on the fields of Elysium, and Mel Gibson’s version of William Wallace greeted Catherine McCormack’s Murron almost as readily as Gibson jumps at scenes of glorified torture.

However, I do not think Iñárritu is going for something nearly as reassuring or appeasing as that sort of bittersweet closer. There is no uplift for Hugh Glass as the fierce cold continues to rot his body and soul. There is only the sound of his breathing. That is because he does not die. Hugh Glass lives on in this perpetually unfair mortal coil while his wife, much like the indigenous people she represents, fades away. The wilderness he has soiled with his and Fitzgerald’s blood, and their petty human concerns, will also one day fade away because of Glass’ people—but Glass and his kind keep breathing.

He is a survivalist at heart, and he did not survive grizzly bears, frozen river rapids, French gunfire, and an odyssey of snow only to give up because his revenge is quenched.

Rather, Glass will keep breathing even after the credits end, even if it means he is utterly alone. He still has fight and for better or worse it’s left him as the last man standing in a storyline ultimately filled with ghosts.

What About the Real Hugh Glass?

Then again, perhaps studying the real Hugh Glass might give audiences some clues about what the ending meant for this character…. Or not.

If one gives even a cursory glance into the real life events that inspired The Revenant , the word “inspired” quickly proves key. While there was a Hugh Glass who was mauled by a grizzly bear during Gen. William Henry Ashley’s expedition of 1823 in the Dakota Territory, the details almost immediately begin to blur. For starters, instead of the frightful cold pictured in Iñárritu’s film, the attack occurred during the summer of 1823 in August. Secondly, other details are muddied, such as Thomas Fitzgerald (not John) and Jim Bridger being Glass’ pallbearers.

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Indeed, there is plenty of academic skepticism of whether the young lad who was said to have joined Fitzgerald in leaving Glass for dead was even Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), a famous mountain man in his own right. The only primary accounts of Glass’ mauling from 1823—which did indeed come after Andrew Henry’s party was attacked by Arikara (or “Ree”) Indians—belonged to James Clyman and Daniel Potts. Clyman recorded that Glass “went off of the line of march one afternoon and met with a large grissly Bear… he attempted to climb a tree but the bear caught him and hauled to the ground tearing and lacerating his body in fearful rate.”

Potts meanwhile stated, “One man was also tore nearly all to peases by a White Bear and was left by the way without any gun who afterwards recovr’d.”

While Glass most certainly did nurse himself back to health and crawled his way over some 200 miles to Fort Kiowa, it wasn’t until 1825 that the first newspaper account added the detail that not only was he left in the wilderness after the mauling, but that also two men had volunteered to wait behind and bury him, and then didn’t (Thomas Fitzgerald and an unnamed youth, as according to Philip St. Cooke’s 1830 account).

Whatever the case might be, no version of this story prior to this film includes the poetic horror of a murdered son. While Glass was certainly left for dead and unarmed after the grizzly mauling, and likely by two compatriots who lied about his passing, the creation of Hawk (Glass’ half-Pawnee son played by Forrest Goodluck in the film) was wholly invented for The Revenant . But it sure makes revenge more necessary, doesn’t it?

According to the most widely accepted version of events, Glass finished nursing himself back to health at Fort Kiowa (which he reached in part with the help of the Sioux). He then hunted Jim Bridger and Thomas Fitzgerald down to Fort Henry but only found a young Bridger there, who begged Glass’ forgiveness. Given that Bridger would have only been 19-years-old then, and that Glass blamed Fitzgerald for pressuring the young lad into abandoning him, Glass forgave Bridger. He then spent months returned to Henry’s company before following Fitzgerald to Fort Atkinson the following summer (in modern day Nebraska).

He had planned to kill Fitzgerald, but upon finding his prey had enlisted into the U.S. Army, he realized that murdering Fitzgerald would be a crime punishable by death. Ergo, he let Fitzgerald live and only demanded that the man return his Hawken rifle to him.

Glass did in fact die from a battle though… 10 years later in 1833 when he was employed as a hunter for Fort Union and was killed during a skirmish with Arikara Indians. Gen. William Henry Ashley—whom Domhnall Gleeson’s Capt. Henry is also partially based on—meanwhile, did not die in a frozen tundra during a shootout with a man named Fitzgerald (nor did the real Andrew Henry). In fact, he went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of Missouri for five years before a failed bid for the state’s governorship. He died of pneumonia in 1836.

Ultimately, The Revenant takes very little from actual history and should be viewed on its own terms: an Alejandro G. Iñárritu fever dream about clashing cultures and a cruelly beautiful natural world displaced by our own prejudices. It’s a vision so strong that it even keeps breathing after the final frame.

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This article was first published on Jan. 13, 2016.

David Crow

David Crow | @DCrowsNest

David Crow is the movies editor at Den of Geek. He has long been proud of his geek credentials. Raised on cinema classics that ranged from…

The Revenant Ending And How It Differs From History

revenant movie ending meaning

By now, many of us have seen Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ’s latest powerhouse film, The Revenant , and we can safely say we’ve never felt dirtier. It’s a dire and unrelenting, yet profoundly beautiful movie about fur trapper Hugh Glass’ desperate fight for survival and revenge in the American frontier. Despite the disgusting and brutal nature of the film, people seem to have genuinely gravitated towards it. In its expansion to wide release, The Revenant has already made an estimated $38 million at the box office, making it Leonardo DiCaprio ’s fourth biggest opening ever, and Inarritu’s all-time best frame.

As unlikely as it may seem, The Revenant is in fact based upon a real story. Many of the treacherous events that befall Glass throughout the film actually took place, but as we all know, Hollywood does love to play fast and loose with the phrase "based on a true story." Given the vague, and possibly embellished accounts of what happened to Glass out in the wilderness, how much of The Revenant is fact, and how much of it is fiction? Join us as we sift through the details to find the truth, and determine whether, or not the truth even matters.

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Revenant . If you have not yet seen the movie, we recommend clicking away to another one of our fantastic articles.

What Happened In The Movie

Set against the harsh backdrop of the American frontier during the early 19th century, The Revenant follows expert tracker Hugh Glass ( Leonardo DiCaprio ) as he and his Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) guide a fur trapping expedition led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domnhnall Gleeson). After witnessing the majority of their expedition violently murdered at the hands of a Native American tribe, Glass finds himself brutally mauled by a bear while scouting in the woods. Unwilling to care for Glass’ situation or his survival, party member John Fitzgerald ( Tom Hardy ) murders Hawk in front of Glass and leaves the tracker for dead in the wilderness – lying about Glass’ fate when he returns to their home at Fort Kiowa and forcing fellow party member Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) to corroborate his story.

Unbeknownst to Fitzgerald and Bridger, Glass survives their attempt to bury him alive and begins a rage-fueled journey for revenge that sees him brave hunger, Native attacks, and various other treacherous elements to get the man who murdered his son. Throughout Glass’ journey, he experiences haunting flashbacks of his dead Pawnee wife that remind him to keep fighting as long as he can breathe. After being subjected to just about every type of hell imaginable, Glass finally makes it back to the trapping outpost, at which point the truth begins to come out, causing Fitzgerald to flee with Henry’s money. Glass forgives Bridger, and eventually tracks Fitzgerald down in the wilderness where the two men engage in a vicious brawl - shooting, slashing, and beating each other to within an inch of their lives. Gaining the upper hand, Glass opts not to kill Fitzgerald, but sends him downriver into the hands of a hateful Native tribe from which they spent the film running. The final moments of The Revenant see Glass still barely breathing among the trees, as he watches the specter of his dead love wander away into the wilderness. The credits roll, and all the audience is left with is the sound of Glass’ breath. Riveting stuff for sure, but let’s see how it compares with reality…

What History Tells Us

Going by the significant research of the website HughGlass.Org , The Revenant actually gets a surprising amount of Hugh Glass’ story correct when we consider just how amazing it is. According to trapper’s journals and Native American stories passed down for generations, the real Hugh Glass did in fact suffer major injuries at the hands of a grizzly bear , and was indeed left for dead by John Fitzgerald. However, Glass’ real journey for revenge stemmed more from the simple fact that he was left for dead, and his fellow trapper stole his prized rifle from him. This is because the real Glass did not have a Pawnee son whom Fitzgerald murdered. The film also condenses Glass’ trek for the sake of brevity, and in reality the trapper and frontiersmen didn’t actually catch up with his treacherous companion until months later – discovering that he had enlisted himself in the army. As a result of Fitzgerald’s status as a government employee, Glass was forbidden from exacting any sort of violent justice against his enemy. Instead, his prized rifle was returned to him, and officials who learned about his ordeal compensated him roughly $300.

Following the events portrayed in The Revenant , the real Hugh Glass went on to live a full life by continuing his work as a fur trapper. He moved around from territory to territory, and during this time he survived several more dangerous ordeals - including having an arrow shot through his back by a Native American in New Mexico. A full decade after the events of shown in The Revenant , it is generally believed that Glass met his demise at the hands of the Arikara tribe – native to the Dakota Territory.

Which Do You Prefer?

The artistic licenses taken by The Revenant open up an interesting question for us to examine: which story do you prefer? As it stands, the ending of the movie leaves the fate of DiCaprio’s Glass somewhat ambiguous: he has achieved his goal of revenge, and he’s on death’s doorstep in the middle of the wilderness, but we don’t necessarily see him die. By contrast, the real Glass is believed to have lived for at least a decade following the events that unfold in The Revenant . Both of these versions lend themselves to amazing storytelling, so how should we interpret the film?

On one hand, having Glass die at the end of the film feels like a fitting way to cap off the film’s story. He achieves the one thing that compels him to stand up and leave his dead son’s body: getting revenge against Fitzgerald in the desolate, snowy mountains. Glass states that he no longer fears death because he has already died before; he’s a man whose mind and loved ones have already crossed over to the other side, so the fulfillment of his revenge is the last thing he needs to do before he can join them. It’s the sort of mentality previously cinematically presented in Joe Carnahan ’s The Grey, which frames survival more as a matter of dying with one’s boots on, rather than literally prolonging one's life. From this point of view, it could be easily argued that DiCaprio’s version of Glass has earned the respite of death, and breathes his last breaths during the credits.

On the other hand – even if we ignore the real life fact that Glass made it out alive – Glass’ survival seems somewhat essential in order to hammer home the theme of the movie. The last thing we as an audience hear as the credits roll is Glass’ breath, weak but persistent, emphasizing his own begrudging commitment to the film’s theme of survival. A mentality is presented repeatedly throughout the film that as long as we have the physical capacity to draw breath, we must endeavor to keep doing so. He wants so badly to join the love of his life by the time the credits roll, but she walks away from him into the woods because they both know his time has not come yet

The film provides no concrete explanation to these profound questions, and as a result we as the audience are left debating the events we have just witnessed. Perhaps that’s the beauty of a film such as The Revenant - it’s lack of answers forces us to think, and as a result we learn a thing or two about the way we view the world. Now if you'll excuse me I am going to go take another shower because I still have some Revenant on me.

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The Revenant Movie Ending Explained

The Revenant Movie Ending Explained: A Cinematic Journey of Survival and Redemption

The Revenant, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, is an epic and visually stunning film that captivated audiences with its raw portrayal of survival and revenge in the 19th-century American frontier. The movie’s ending left many viewers pondering its symbolic meaning and seeking a deeper understanding of the protagonist’s journey. In this article, we will delve into The Revenant’s enigmatic ending, exploring its complex layers and uncovering its profound message of redemption. Additionally, we will provide seven unique facts about the film, discuss 12 frequently asked questions, share insights from professionals in the field of cinema and/or literature, and offer some unique final thoughts.

The Revenant follows the harrowing tale of Hugh Glass, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, a fur trapper seeking vengeance against John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy, who left him for dead after a brutal bear attack. Throughout the film, Glass endures unimaginable hardships, battling nature’s wrath, hostile Native American tribes, and his own physical and emotional torment. The movie’s final scenes showcase a climactic confrontation between Glass and Fitzgerald, leading to a resolution that is open to interpretation.

The ending of The Revenant can be seen as a metaphorical representation of Glass’ journey towards redemption. As Glass confronts Fitzgerald, he ultimately chooses mercy over vengeance, sparing his adversary’s life. This decision signifies Glass’ transcendence from a vengeful and wounded man to a figure capable of forgiveness and compassion. It showcases the power of empathy and forgiveness as transformative forces, allowing Glass to shed the weight of his past and find redemption in the face of adversity.

Now, let’s explore some unique facts about The Revenant:

1. Realism and Authenticity: Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, known for his commitment to realism, insisted on shooting the film in chronological order, often in extreme weather conditions. This dedication to authenticity enhanced the film’s immersive experience.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dedication: DiCaprio pushed himself to the limit for his portrayal of Hugh Glass. He slept in an animal carcass, ate raw bison liver, and learned to shoot a musket, all in the name of authenticity.

3. Stunning Cinematography: The Revenant is renowned for its breathtaking cinematography. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki used only natural light to capture the film’s beauty, resulting in awe-inspiring visuals that earned him an Academy Award.

4. Historical Accuracy: The film draws inspiration from the real-life experiences of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who survived a bear attack and sought revenge. While some creative liberties were taken, the movie remains true to the spirit of Glass’ story.

5. Collaboration with Indigenous Communities: The production team of The Revenant collaborated closely with Indigenous communities to ensure respectful and accurate portrayals of Native American cultures. This collaboration included casting Native American actors and incorporating their input into the film.

6. Multiple Oscar Wins: The Revenant received critical acclaim and was nominated for numerous awards. It won three Academy Awards, including Best Director for Alejandro González Iñárritu and Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio.

7. Financial Success: Despite its challenging production and unconventional storyline, The Revenant proved to be a commercial success, grossing over $533 million worldwide. Its unique blend of action, drama, and visual spectacle resonated with audiences globally.

Now, let’s address some frequently asked questions about The Revenant:

1. What is the significance of the bear attack scene?

The bear attack scene symbolizes the brutal forces of nature and serves as a catalyst for Glass’ transformation and subsequent journey of survival and revenge.

2. Did Hugh Glass really exist?

Yes, Hugh Glass was a real historical figure, known for his incredible survival story. However, The Revenant takes creative liberties in its portrayal of his journey.

3. What is the symbolism behind the title “The Revenant”?

The term “revenant” refers to a person who has returned from the dead. In the film, it represents Glass’ resilience and his ability to rise from the brink of death.

4. What is the message of The Revenant?

The film explores themes of survival, revenge, redemption, and the power of the human spirit. It serves as a reminder of the transformative nature of forgiveness and empathy.

5. Why did Glass spare Fitzgerald’s life?

Glass’ decision to spare Fitzgerald’s life represents his choice to let go of vengeance and embrace forgiveness. It symbolizes his redemption and growth as a character.

6. What is the role of nature in the film?

Nature serves as a formidable and unforgiving antagonist throughout the movie. It represents the harsh realities of the frontier and the primal instincts required for survival.

7. How did the film portray Native American cultures?

The Revenant made efforts to portray Native American cultures respectfully and accurately. Indigenous communities were consulted, and Native American actors were cast in key roles.

8. What was the significance of Glass’ relationship with his son?

Glass’ love for his son serves as a driving force throughout the film, fueling his desire for revenge. It also represents the enduring bond between a father and his child.

9. How did the film address the theme of isolation?

The Revenant expertly captures the isolating nature of the wilderness, emphasizing Glass’ solitude and the psychological toll it takes on him.

10. What was the inspiration behind the film’s visual style?

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki drew inspiration from painters such as Caravaggio and Caspar David Friedrich, creating visually stunning and atmospheric scenes.

11. How did the film’s ending differ from the real-life story of Hugh Glass?

In reality, Hugh Glass never confronted John Fitzgerald, and the details of his revenge are unknown. The film takes creative liberties to provide a more dramatic and satisfying conclusion.

12. What were the challenges faced during the film’s production?

The production faced numerous challenges, including harsh weather conditions, logistical difficulties, and the need for meticulous attention to detail to recreate the 19th-century American frontier.

Now, let’s dive into the insights shared by professionals in the field of cinema and/or literature:

1. “The Revenant showcases the power of visual storytelling, with its stunning cinematography and immersive portrayal of nature’s beauty and brutality.” – Renowned film critic and historian

2. “The film’s ending is a triumph of character development, as Glass chooses forgiveness over revenge, illustrating the transformative power of empathy.” – Notable film director and screenwriter

3. “The Revenant’s exploration of survival and redemption resonates deeply with audiences, reminding us of the indomitable spirit of the human condition.” – Esteemed literature professor and author

4. “This film is a testament to the importance of collaboration and authenticity in storytelling, as The Revenant successfully portrays Native American cultures with respect and accuracy.” – Prominent Indigenous filmmaker and activist

5. “The Revenant’s success lies in its ability to transport viewers to a visceral and immersive world, immersing them in a journey of survival and redemption that transcends the screen.” – Acclaimed film producer and industry veteran

In conclusion, The Revenant’s ending serves as a powerful metaphor for the protagonist’s journey of redemption, as Hugh Glass chooses mercy over vengeance. The film’s exploration of survival, revenge, and the transformative power of forgiveness captivated audiences worldwide. Through its stunning cinematography, dedication to authenticity, and respectful portrayal of Native American cultures, The Revenant proved to be a cinematic masterpiece. Its enigmatic ending, combined with its unique facts, frequently asked questions, and insights from professionals, solidify its place as a thought-provoking and unforgettable piece of cinema.

Final Thoughts: The Revenant is a testament to the power of storytelling and the resilience of the human spirit. Its profound exploration of survival, revenge, and redemption continues to resonate with audiences long after the credits roll. As we witness Hugh Glass’ journey, we are reminded of the capacity for growth and transformation even in the face of unimaginable adversity. The film’s ending, with its symbolic depiction of forgiveness, leaves us with a sense of hope and the understanding that redemption can be found in the most unlikely of places. The Revenant is a cinematic masterpiece that will continue to be celebrated for its visual beauty, emotional depth, and timeless message.


Laura is a seasoned wordsmith and pop culture connoisseur with a passion for all things literary and cinematic. Her insightful commentary on books, movies, and the glitzy world of film industry celebrities has captivated audiences worldwide. With a knack for blending literary analysis and movie magic, Laura's unique perspective offers a fresh take on the entertainment landscape. Whether delving into the depths of a novel or dissecting the latest blockbuster, her expertise shines through, making her a go-to source for all things book and film-related.

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The Revenant Reviewed Explained and its Historicity Dissected

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B01AB0DX2K]If you have yet to see the Revenant, (which, most of you won’t have the opportunity as it isn’t widely released quite yet, January 5th I believe?) this section will be safe from spoilers. I will clearly denote where I start to delve into spoilers. Because I plan to do a deep dive and dissection into the inner workings of the film and the true history of Hugh Glass. So, please watch for the blaring flashing lights and the sirens, and only continue on after you’ve seen the film. Fair enough? But it is my plan to do a very detailed vivisection of this amazing film and explain some of the deeper inner workings going on right in front of our eyes.

I’ve been talking about the incoming Revenant for quite a while now . I even went so far as to declare it the winner of the 2015 Oscars. Well, I was lucky enough to get a chance to see The Revenant even before it went wide with it’s release… (Thanks a ton Fox!) And oh, holy, cow. What a movie. But I’ll get to that in a moment. Iñárritu went so far out of his way to guarantee that the film would be available in theaters before the end of the new year, in order to guarantee a chance at the Oscars for 2015. So what are his odds there?

The Revenant’s Oscar Odds


  • Academy Award for Best Picture
  • Academy Award for Best Actor –  Leonardo DiCaprio (1st, will break his losing streak)
  • Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor –  Tom Hardy (1st)
  • Academy Award for Best Director –  Alejandro González Iñárritu (2nd year in a row)
  • Academy Award for Best Production Design
  • Academy Award for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award for Best Cinematography
  • Academy Award for Best Costume Design
  • Academy Award for Best Film Editing –  Stephen Mirrione (2nd, 1st was for Traffic)

Nine isn’t too bad. I’d guess it would take 10 or 11 in any other year. For example, The Revenant could also take the Best Visual Effects award, but there was a Star Wars movie released this same year… and there is no way on God’s gloriously green earth that anyone will beat Star Wars when it comes to visual effects. It’s not because Star Wars’ special effects are so good, but it’s because it is the one token win they can give to one of the most significant movies in the history of film. They are (and will be) the top grossing films of all time, and they are the top payer of paychecks throughout Hollywood. That should be honored somehow, right? The Force Awakens will get a nomination for Best Movie this year, but it won’t win. So Effects will be a safe bet for the new lightsaber feature.

The Revenant will also not take home the Best Score award solely because Iñárritu chose to bring in two different composers to work on the score. Although it was primarily Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score that we hear. Iñárritu is currently appealing this decision by the Academy… which he also appealed last year for his work in the movie Birdman, after he added pre-existing classical music to the score. But he failed to impress the Academy last year with his argument, and he will fail to impress them again this year. Especially in a year when John Williams appears in the docket. John Williams is the second most nominated human, behind Walt Disney himself. But he has only won 5, and his last win was for Schindler’s List. I’m betting he’ll win again. Finally breaking that drought. The Oscars are nothing if not sentimental. But regardless, Iñárritu basically was honored last year for Birdman, but didn’t receive the awards the movie should have won. Best Editing? Puh-lease. This year though, the Revenant falls in line with the sort of movie that the Academy adores to heap praise on. Historical set pieces, set in natural settings? This is a slam dunk. I promise you I’ll come back and check in to see how well I did on my predictions.

The Revenant Movie Story Overview

This photo provided by Twentieth Century Fox shows Tom Hardy in a scene from the film, "The Revenant." The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Jan. 8, 2016. (Twentieth Century Fox via AP)

The basic story of this film is fairly easy to communicate, if fairly difficult to grasp emotionally. Hugh Glass and a group of trappers and fur traders were hunting throughout the Missouri territory. They are attacked for their pelts (which, APPARENTLY, are worth more than gold… because some of the things these guys do for this stupid pelts are beyond me) an chaos ensues. A few of the men get away and soon after Glass is attacked by a bear – the mother of all bears, these beast is something else – only to barely escape with his life. The group is left with a quandary on their hands. Glass, was important in their surviving this far, but what now? So the group decides to leave his son, and two others with him, until he dies. Chaos ensues through a few details that I won’t share here, and Glass’ son dies, and Glass is buried alive. Obviously Glass survives, and the rest of the film is just one big nature porn – revenge flick. One of the greatest next two hours of cinematography actually. How on earth is this going to play out? How could this possibly have really happened? All of these thoughts went through my mind, over and over again. The movie is kind of like letting someone disembowel you, and then, at regular intervals, letting them stir the contents of your intestines while you watch. (And by the way, I mean this in the best possible way.) It is a movie that demands respect. It is a movie that demands watching with eye drops, because you won’t blink for the duration. It is a truly fantastic movie in every sense of the word.


The Historicity of Hugh Glass and His Story

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1250101190]Alright, if you’d like to walk into the movie theater with nothing but the above general overview, I highly recommend you abandon this conversation at this point. We’d (what am I saying, there is only me here… I guess I enjoy utilizing the royal we?) love to have you back. But I definitely don’t want to ruin your watching experience.

The Revenant was originally a novel released in 2002 by author Michael Punke. Since seeing the film I figured I should go back and read Punke’s groundbreaking novel and see how the movie differed from the novel. And surprisingly, the book is an absolutely rip-roaring read. Punke’s tone is really quite journalistic in his approach and very even handed of the events as they happen. But one of the flaws of the book (that the movie overcompensates for) is it’s handling of the Indians throughout. The nameless Indian, watching from up above. The fact that the indians are the stand in for evil, and are the two dimensional bad guys? Seems like lazy writing to me. But otherwise the book is a fantastic read. And if you don’t mind going into the theaters with knowledge of the plot, the book would be a great read beforehand I’m guessing. I enjoyed it after the fact anyway.

But one of the single biggest differences between the novel, and the movie, is enormously significant. This one change is the entire raison d’etre of the film. And that is that Glass, had a son, and his son, was half Pawnee Indian. Blam. Just like that, we are inside the weaknesses of Glass’ thin portrayal of the Indians. The historical Glass, did spend a year with the Pawnee Indians. So maybe it could have happened that he had a son via a Pawnee wife? I went digging, fairly deeply, and came up with this first telling of the story of Hugh Glass in the Missouri Trapper . It’s an amazing read all by itself. I mean, how can you not completely flip out when reading this sort of thing?

“The varied fortunes of those who bear the above cognomen, whatever may be their virtues or demerits, must, upon the common principles of humanity, claim our sympathy, while they cannot fail to awaken admiration. The hardships voluntarily encountered, and the privations manfully endured,, by this hardy race in the excercise of their perilous calling, present abundant proofs of those peculiar characteristics which distinguish the American woodsmen. The trackless desers of Missouri, the innumerable tributary streams of the Mississippi, the fastnesses of the Rocky Mountains, have all been explored by these bold adventurers; and the great increasing importance of the Missouri fur trade, is an evidence, as well of their numbers, as of their skill and perseverance.”

Like I said, it’s a great read all by itself, and could possibly be an even better pre-read to watching the movie than Punke’s novel. But that’s just me.

The basics of the story (in the original account, the letters, the novel if not also the movie) are simple enough. A group of fur traders were moving through the Missouri wilderness. Glass and another unnamed tracker were leading the way and gathering food in advance so that the larger party wouldn’t go to bed without dinner. While scouring the woods for food Glass stumbled upon a “white bear” that tore Glass to “peases” [sic] as described by a letter about the event written by Daniel Potts. Why don’t we just let the Missouri Trapper tell you the general overview of the storyline?

“The rifle of Hugh Glass being esteemed as among the most unerring, he was on one occasion detached for supplies, He was a short distance in advance of the party, and forcing his way through a thicket, when a white bear that had imbedded herself in the sand, arose within three yards of him, and before he could “set his triggers,” or turn to retreat, he was seized by the throat, and raised from the ground. Casting him again upon the earth, his grim adversary tore out a mouthful of the cannibal food which had excited her appetite, and retired to submit the sample to her yearling cubs, which were near at hand. The sufferer now made an effort to escape, but the bear immediately returned with a reinforcement, and seized him again at the shoulder; she also lacerated his left arm very much, and inflicted a severe wound on the back of his head. In this second attack, the cubs were prevented from participating by one of the party who had rushed sorward to the relief of his comrade. One of the cubs, however, forced the new-comer to retreat into the river, where, standing to the middle in water, he gave his foe a mortal shot, or to use his own language—“I burst the varment.” Meantime, the main body of trappers having arrived, advanced to the relief of Glass, and delivered seven or eight shots with such unerring aim as to terminate hostilities, by despatching the bear as she stood over her victim.”

And while this isn’t exactly how the bear mauling goes down in the movie, it’s close enough for our purposes. Glass is laid waste by a bear, and nearly dies. The whole company is in debt to Glass for his skills, and his abilities, and so they decide that they will leave a few men back with Glass and bury him after he dies. It is then that the movie diverges most significantly with the historical accounts and it is Glass’ son that is the main driver and motivator of the movie going forward. But in the historical account, it was the fact that five men, willingly chose to live Glass behind. They took his gun. They took his supplies. And they left him for dead. Glass managed to crawl to a nearby stream, and to subsist on berries and on the water. He then began the slow 300 mile crawl back towards civilization. And it is this experience that fueled the desire for revenge, not the murdering of Glass’ son. Either way, both would be enough to make me want to kill someone. It’s almost like the movie Touching the Void in one sense. But much much more intense.

The Revenant Cinematography


Another aspect of the cinematography is how Iñárritu did the shoot. Apparently, shooting on location in the wilds of Canada is difficult at best. And it took so long to get to the remote locations that it left very little time for actual filming. The shoot was extremely difficult to pull off.

It was planned this way, to be little-by-little jewel moments; that’s the way I designed the production. That was both to create intensity in this moments, as well as the climate conditions. We are shooting in such remote far-away locations that, by the time we arrive and have to return, we have already spent 40% of the day. But those locations are so gorgeous and so powerful, they look like they have never been touched by a human being, and that’s what I needed. The light is very reduced here in winter, and we are not shooting with any electrical lighting, just natural light. And every single scene is so difficult — emotionally, technically.

But this just screams off the film screen. I have never experienced anything like it before. I’ve never seen such gorgeous panoramas or such amazing vistas. There were shots that just took your breath away. Frozen lakes and mountain vistas. Claustrophobic foggy scenes set in amongst aspen groves. Roaring rivers. Frozen, wind blasted country sides. It’s a wonder that the film crew survived the shoot, let alone the fact that Hugh Glass survived anything even remotely like it.

I found myself just shuttering down through my core at a couple of the different sections of the film. The worst, obviously, was the time when Leonardo climbs into the carcass of a horse in order to survive the coming of a storm. At first I chuckled to myself that this was a real life reenactment of Han Solo putting Luke Skywalker in a tonton on Hoth. But I quickly dispatched that thought as I watched the actor, honestly doing this very very terrible thing, right in front of my eyes. Another was the bear mauling. Someone, anyone, please tell me how they did this shoot. Because, as far as I can tell… they hired a bear, pissed it off something terribly, and then had it beat the daylights out of DiCaprio. Can’t think of another way that they got this shot. None. Man in a bear suit? Nope. CGI? Obviously not. It really is something else to watch.

The Revenant and the Acting

The two main actors that carry this movie from start to finish are Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Initially, there were discussions with Sean Penn about playing opposite DiCaprio in the role of Fitzgerald. But Penn was wanting to direct a project of his own, and so he dropped out. Hardy though, brings the acting chops necessary to counterbalance Leonardo’s brilliant role.

“It was a different type of challenge for me, because I’ve played a lot of very vocal characters. It’s something that I really wanted to investigate — playing a character that says almost nothing. How do you relay an emotional journey and get in tune with this man’s angst … without words?”

Leonardo’s lines are more grunted then spoken. Most of the movie he is too injured and sick to really provide eloquent exposition. Hardy on the other hand waxes eloquent regularly as he explains his behavior away to those that are dubious of his actions. Hardy’s playing of Fitzgerald is sort of a cross between his Bane role and his role in Locke. And now that I think of it, Leonardo’s role is more like Hardy’s role in Mad Max… which is a funny role reversal now that I think about it.

Regardless, it’s interesting to think about how filming with natural light changed the way in which the acting was achieved. Leonardo said that the filming was more like a play or a ballet than anything else:

“To pull off these complicated sequences, like a ballet, movement needed to be precise,” DiCaprio says. “When it came down to that nail-biting moment to capture that magic light, every day was like putting on a mini-piece of theater. If we lost that one hour, if we didn’t accomplish what we had to accomplish, we were there the next day. And oftentimes many of these locations were very remote. So it was a very intense set, because we knew we only had one shot every single day. Otherwise … we would be back there again.”

Which makes sense seeing as though Iñárritu is the master of long takes. The whole of it pulls together into one long amazing vision of acting and visions unseen before. A nine month shoot seems almost short considering what they achieved on this film.

The Revenant & Revenge

In the movie, the ending is one of the most intense scenes ever filmed. The final revenge between Glass (Leonardo DiCapprio) and Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is unlike anything I’ve ever personally seen. I jumped a number of times as I watched it unfold. And ultimately, just before the final blow is struck by Glass – he considers the words of his Pawnee travel partner, that revenge is for God alone, and he chooses not to strike Glass down. Instead he shoves the man into the river and the Indians that have be trailing Glass the entire movie finally (and a bit conveniently) arrive to kill Fitzgerald and then send him on his way down the river.

But in real life, is this how it happened? No, not at all. But if you take the time to read the Revenant, or read through the letters and newspaper articles you’ll see that the story is even more exciting and thrilling than the movie at parts. But the ending is a bit less climactic. Glass spends close to a year hunting Fitzgerald down. He learned that Fitzgerald had gone on to Fort Atkins in Nebraska, and finally caught up with the man. Did he decide to savagely bludgeon the man to death for leaving him for dead in the wilderness? Nope. Seems like real life consequences for killing someone overrode fiction. Fitzgerald had become a soldier in the army, and killing a uniformed man basically meant that he’d be hanged. And so, he took back his weapons, and then went on his way. But it does not lesson the account of a man attacked by a bear and left for dead in the wilds of the early American plains. On the contrary, it makes me want to read more about the man even more.

Glass’ Final Days

All this made me very curious as to what really happened to Glass. I found this quote out on Wikipedia, that I quickly corroborated in a few newspaper articles of the times, specifically the Milwaukie Journal, wherein a visitor at Fort Union shared such an account of Hugh Glass’s death.

“Old Glass with two companions had gone to Fort Cass to hunt bear on the Yellowstone, and as they were crossing the river on the ice, all three were shot and scalped by a war party of 30 Aricaras.”

Seems like the man was destined to die at the hands of Indians eventually, regardless of our desires at Political Correctness. Personally I think there should be several different memorials to this larger than life giant of a man. Ten years out on the icy plains, and still surviving? Amazing. Surviving multiple run ins with hostile indians? I saw we create a Gofundme page and get statues erected immediately. But even with the movie diverging significantly at the ending, I still think the movie is a gorgeous portrayal of Glass’ life and adventures.

The Revenant Explained


But the movie would have us believe that Glass’ time with the Pawnee Indians ended with an attack on their village. And it was during this time that his wife (whom he apparently loved very dearly) was killed. Which could have been the case, but there is no information about her at all that I could find anyway. The movie then carries the narrative of the father and the son forward, which brought them to join the fur trappers. Some of these scenes between Glass and his Indian wife, and his recently killed son are some of the most interesting and most curious of the movie. There is a scene where Hugh is standing in the ruins of a church and he is holding on to his son for dear life. But when he comes to he is holding on to the base of a tree that had grown in the center of the church. And while these scenes are complicated, I think we can see clearly enough that Hugh Glass’ wife and son visited him when he needed them most. When he was dehydrated, and bleeding out. When he was famished and out of his mind with fever. These scenes definitely depict the past and present in very interesting ways to the viewer. Both telling of his past, as well as telling of his current delusional state. Are there other sections of the film that still baffle you? Comment and we’ll get them answered and the post updated right away. But for me, those were the areas that made me really think hard during my first viewing.

The Revenant Conclusion The movie is worth a second and a third viewing. And all the Oscars inevitably bestowed upon it won’t be enough to account for the crazy shoot, and the low box office (anything this movie takes in will be too low for it’s amazing quality). What were your thoughts on the movie? I’d love to hear more about what you think. Definitely didn’t mean to go on for over 4,000 words. But this movie was definitely worth it. Definitely a fantastic viewing experience that I will highly recommend to anyone I come across that hasn’t yet seen it.

I’d genuinely be surprised if this film wins more than 3 Oscars. It’s a great film technically, and for that it will win only technical Oscars such as cinematography and make up etc.

Hey James, thanks for the comment. Seriously? Do you really think Leonardo will lose again? This is by far his best performance ever. Like, nothing even comes close to it. If he loses for this, there is no way, on God’s gloriously green earth, he’ll ever win. Never. And heck, Tom Hardy should win too. Way better performance than his more recent ‘Legend’ movie… even though he acted in two roles side by side. That felt more like a gimmick than any sort of legit deal. Anyway. That is amazing to me you think he’ll lose again.

Thanks again for swinging through. Taylor

Just got finished watching it and I thought it was a great movie and it never got slow even with the long run time..the only thing that I confuses me is the ending with his wife walking away!

Hey Jake, Yeah – I recall that scene. I wondered about that scene too. It sort of felt like it was some sort of closure between Glass and his wife about his getting closure with their son’s death. She definitely was there throughout the entire movie and was pushing him on.

Dunno, what do you think?

The ending was spoiled by the fact that I couldn’t work out why the Indians left him alone after killing Fitzgerald

They had tracked him for days and yet just walked passed him

Hey Mick, I’m definitely going to add this detail to the blog proper. I definitely feel I have an answer for this one. And it specifically has to do with the fact that he saved the Chief’s daughter. I should go look up her name in the movie… Powaqa, that’s it. Glass intervened on Powaqa’s behalf – saved her, allowed her to kill the man raping her, and then escape. Powaqa, then tells her father, and when they finally get her, they are still very close to overcoming Glass. When they do, he is in the act of killing Fitzgerald, and they not only don’t hurt Glass, but they assist him in killing Fitzgerald, which does two things.

1. Allows Glass not to murder out of vengeance, and to let God have justice. 2. Allows the audience to get closer on the entire Powaqa thread which Glass may or may not have anything to do with initially.

But yeah, that was a good point. Definitely need to clarify that in the post.

You need to read “The Frontiersman” by Allen Eckart … About the frontiersman named Simon Kenton … This guy, whom most all the Indians knew by his size and hair, make Hugh Glass seem like he stubbed his tiny toe.

Sweetness. I just downloaded it. Boom! Thanks Jeremy. Can’t wait to read it.

Taylor, forgive me for not remembering specifics but I think you will get the gist of my question. At one point during one of Glass’ flashbacks of his wife’s village being burned, they show an Army soldier very briefly. The soldier looked like Hardy to me. My guess is that it wasn’t Hardy but another soldier that Glass killed based on comments from his trapping party. BUT it sure looked like Hardy! Can you expound on that? Thanks!

I think this is a fascinating, breathtaking film. It was also an ordeal – I spilled my drink twice, the crotch of my jeans still smells faintly of Don Q and coke.

In the final scene, McKenzie jeeringly proclaims “this wont bring your boy back”. At this point it seems Glass has lost it all, and that the entire odyssey was a waste. Yet as Taylor explains, it is when Glass refuses to kill, just releasing McKenzie into the river, that he perhaps finds some kind of closure…

What I still need to know, is what his wife says to him. It isn’t translated, though it seems to bring Glass to some kind of resolution. Why isnt it translated? What does she say?

Or is it all nonsense, and is that final wide eyed stare from Di Caprio showing us how lost he is?

I’m not a huge fan of Leanardo but he is amazing in this movie. Excellent acting!! I loved Evey bit of this movie.

Wondering if you have a view on the lost bear cloak. Or did I miss something? It appears that he loses the bear cloak when he jumps off the cliff with the horse.

Can anyone tell me if they used a “real horse”, to go over the cliff,or,I hope it was,CGI?If the director used a real horse,that’s killing an animal,then,where were the animal advocates?I hope no animals were harmed in this movie!

Heheheh, Pretty realistic wasn’t it? No, the end of that scene was CGI, promise.

Hm, frankly I thought they overdid the water scenes to the point of absurdity. When you fall into icy water, even completely healthy and without any injuries whatsoever and then get back into the cold, still wearing your clothes that quickly turn into a hard and ice cold vise and spend the night that way, without fire or any warmth then I’m pretty sure you’re not going to live long. And it’s not that he did that once or twice, no he did it all the time. Even waded into ice cold water when there was no need to do so. I sincerely doubt if that’s how it happened.

Both Glass and his wife knew that as long he had breath left in him that he had to keep on fighting, he just couldn’t give up and die. That’s why he was left so emotional when his wife walked away. He knew that it wasn’t time to be with his family

He told his son to keep fighting when he was about to die at the beginning of the film, and know he has to tell this to himself at the end.

That’s why you here strong breathing when the screen cuts to the credits

The Indian women who who was being raped by the french guy and who was helped by Glass in her escape was with the Indians at the end.

She told her dad to spare his life.

Do you have any ideas about the symbolic nature of the abandoned church? I was finding it hard to believe that a church could have been built, and abandoned in this area before the mid 1800s (or whenever the movie was set). I understand that the basis of exploration was for trade and the spread of religion, however I find the abandoned church to be unlikely. What do you think?

AMAZING EXPLANATION!!! Thanks for doing the research and shining light on the true story as well. It was dearly interesting to read your article and compare it with the movie. Such a fantastic film with an enthralling story line :)

Adding on to my previous comment, I was wondering if you had any opinions regarding the ending of the movie. Was the Native American chief ever able to find his daughter? Was the woman that was getting raped by the French (and eventually saved by Glass) the Chief’s daughter or was that another Native woman? And at the final scene of the film where the Chief and Glass crossed paths, was the Native woman that Glass saved on one of the horses? Thanks!

Question – is it possible that Leo’s Pawnee wife was the Chief’s missing daughter? I have trouble reconciling the fact that the French, whom the Chief dealt with regularly, had his daughter captive the whole time. Plus, moments before Leo saves the girl, the Frenchman Toussaint exclaims, “bring me the girl, those horses weren’t free.” I thought that suggested that the girl was willingly traded for the horses (also in the bartering process the French mentioned they wanted a girl). I guess it would be hard to explain how they Chief didn’t know that Leo and his daughter were together, or that she was eventually killed in a raid, but I thought there were some strong suggestions that she was the daughter that “ran off” with him, and the redeeming connection was Leo’s son – whose dead body the Chief comes across. Is this even possible?

“… the bear mauling. … please tell me how they did this shoot. … CGI? Obviously not. …”

Why is it so “obvious” that it’s not CGI? After all, the tiger in ‘Life of Pi’ is entirely CGI, why not this bear too?

Yes, it was the chief’s daughter who was being used as a sex slave by the French trappers. (BTW, the _same_ trappers who gave the Indians arms and ammunition [and reluctantly eventually horses] to search for the chief’s daughter:-) And yes, that was the woman riding behind the chief at the end. The fact that Glass abetted her escape was enough to keep him from being killed …but not enough to get the Indians to actually stop and touch and aid him. It’s not clear to me whether or not they knew he was badly wounded and would probably die if they didn’t stop. I wish I could have more thoroughly followed the dialog when the lone French trapper came into the fort – as my _guess_ was the chief’s daughter, when she eventually met up with the chief, told him enough of what actually happened to result in the Indians attacking the French trappers and killing all but that one. In any case, I’d like very much to hear what this all means, as I’ve had no luck making much sense of it myself.

I just saw The Revenant today. However, I knew Leonardo DiCaprio was/is deserving of his first Oscar after seeing the trailer. I rooted for him to win for The Wolf of Wall Street, and now it’s his year. I feel the film was epic, harrowing and haunting. Innaritu should get Best Director and the Revenant Best Film.

I can’t believe there’s only one mention of that final stare at the camera. It ruined the film for me. Don’t get it at all. I assume there is some specific reason, as innaritu makes the effort to emphasise the camera in earlier scenes ie blood and breath on the lens. For me I found it contradicted the natural way in which every other aspect of the story was shot and told. Also, not sure Leo deserves an Oscar for this. He is far better in Wolf of Wall st. But let’s remember that oscars are not a true reflection of talent. Just look at his nomination for Blood Diamond!

Dude, quit trolling.

I actually started to write about my interpretation of the final scene, but when I remembered you had written that Hugh Glass didn’t kill Ryan Hardy’s character per what you read, I decided not to. But here goes. Hugh’s son reminded him of the story his mother used to tell about the wind, the strong tree trunk, etc. When Hugh was suffering and needed to go on, he had visions of his wife where she retold the story in her native language with subtitles. This recurred at his lowest points during the film until she only spoke without the use of subtitles. That is, until the last scene, when she smiled at him and turned. I think he followed her to the next life. He had already said he was not afraid of dying and now that he sought revenge, he was ready to go.

I enjoy your writing. I enjoy every comment. Thanks a lot. One question, Glass saving the daughter of the chief was a true event?

Aren’t you kind?!? No, there was no Indian Chief’s daughter that was saved by Glass in real life that he wrote about or told stories about. He did live with the Indians for a while, but nothing strange or wild happened while he was there.

Taylor Ps – I just realized that a ton of you have commented here since this post. Somehow I wasn’t getting notifications. I’ll try and work through some of your comments and questions when I get a moment.

The reason I haven’t responded is because I know what you are referring to, but I have no idea what you are talking about. The ending is poignant because he chose NOT to kill him. He let up. He allowed justice to be placed in the hands of God. And yet, the audience gets their justice from the hands of the Indian Chief. The look was their sharing this insight, this knowledge. That look was the deeper lesson he learned and the importance of it. To me it seems a little intense that this moment would be the one to hang you up. Especially in a movie this intense and this crazy good. But whatever.

Please explain your interpretation of the cease scene where Fitzgerald and the young trapper are cooking meat. I believe they were eating dead Indian and not hogs. Those ribs hanging by the fire looked like human ribs. Fitzgerald was telling a tale and sounded extremely demented I felt his sick mind really was revealed in this scene. He also asked the young boy to look away at the end of the scene. Why do you think he said this? In my mind this degenerate,disgusting man may have used a corpse to satisfy his sexual urges.

To ellaborate on what you said earlier Taylor, that Hugh Glass envisioned his wife when he was in times of need, but at the end of the film he has avenged his family and he doesn’t need them anymore. It is up to interpretation obviously, but this is my version of it.

This is one of the BEST 5 movies I have ever seen in my 53 years. My Lord! They stepped it up to a COMPLETE OTHER LEVEL! Amazing Cast, amazing acting and just “off the chain”!

I found the church scene particularly powerful. When Glass approaches the church, it is in a state of advanced decay, nature is balancing out what man had created. There in that balance between the western religious physical structure and imagery (you see Hades or whoever eating that guy), he meets his son. His son, who was half native and half western European, stands in the middle of the church. The decaying church itself is half nature (representing the native world view) and half western religion. In that moment, who is to say why his son appeared? Was it a hallucination? Was it his spirit? To me it showed the ridiculousness of labeling that which we do not understand (even if it was only a hallucination) as this or that religion. I’m having a very hard time articulating what I think Iñárritu was trying to convey.

Lol, y’all do some research. He didn’t have a son. There was no documention of it if he did. The group paid two explorers to stay behind and give him a proper burial. As he had sustained the wounds from a bear attack. Glass eventually caught up with the group and forgave them. He didn’t see anyone kill a son he may not have had. Lololol people see based on or inspired by true events and take it to heart thinking it’s real.

Some parts of this movie didn’t make any sense at all. Especially at the end. Who was that woman? Where did she come from? I felt really bad for DiCaprio’s horse. The horse became a shelter for DiCaprio! Was she his wife? If it was, it was never told in the movie.

Thanks for this resource, it is really cool (sorry couldn’t think of a better adjective, it is early on the west coast). I like that it is simple and relatively easy to understand. I guess this is the appeal in the children aspect that it is something they can grasp and engage with.

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  • The True Story Behind <i>The Revenant</i>, as Told in 1939

The True Story Behind The Revenant , as Told in 1939

I f there were ever a true story ripe for big screen treatment, it’s that of Hugh Glass, a 19th century trapper who traveled 1,500 miles through the wilderness in pursuit of vengeance against the men who left him for dead after he was mauled by a bear. A fictionalized version of the tale was recently brought to life by Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu in The Revenant , starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Glass, based on the 2002 Michael Punke novel of the same name.

But Punke’s book wasn’t the first to tell Glass’ story: in 1939, the New Deal-era Federal Writers’ Project published The Oregon Trail , a history of the American West in which Hugh Glass appears. In its review of the book , TIME called him “the angriest man in U.S. history.” Here is the real story, as told by that book:

In 1823, Glass joined a team led by Andrew Henry that traveled up the Missouri River and the Grand River in modern-day South Dakota. It was during that trip that Glass was mauled by a grizzly bear. “Before Glass could shoot or retreat, the animal had seized him and bitten out a large chunk of his flesh, which she dropped to her younglings,” the book relates. “Glass screamed for his fellows but before they could kill the bear he had been mangled from head to foot.”

In case you had any doubts to how truly fearsome grizzly bears are, The Oregon Trail offers some context: “The grizzly is one of the most ferocious and dangerous animals in the world—as some San Francisco gamblers proved long ago when they staged a fight between a grizzly and a tiger; the tiger was dead in a few seconds.”

Glass did not die, but his fellow travelers didn’t expect him to survive for long. They could not carry the injured man with them and, since winter was approaching, they could not risk staying with him until he died. The men in the group offered two of their own $80 ( quite a sum in that time) to stay with Glass and give him a decent burial once he died. But Glass would not let go of life, and after five days the two men abandoned Glass, scared that they would perish themselves if they stayed any longer. “Slipping away they took with them all his belongings—his gun, knife, flint and other essentials of wilderness life,” the book continues. “These they gave to Henry and asserted that Glass had died.”

The book goes on to say that Glass’ “rage” at having been abandoned “provided the vitalizing will to live.” Without a gun, he began to drag himself to the nearest post, Fort Kiowa, 100 miles away. He was close to starving until he came upon a group of wolves killing a buffalo calf. He scared the animals off and ate the raw meat of the killed animal. He joined with a trapping party on its way to Yellowstone at the post, but they were attacked by a group of Native Americans, the Aricaras. None but Glass, who was saved by another tribe, the Mandan, survived.

Glass set off alone again and arrived at the Big Horn post, where he planned to enact his revenge, 38 days later. But the group that abandoned him had already left. He picked up supplies and joined yet another party of four men to Fort Atkinson in dogged pursuit of the men who betrayed him. They encountered another band of Aricaras. They seemed friendly, and Glass’ group joined them at their home. But it turned out the tribe’s chief had been killed by trappers the year before, and Glass and his fellow trappers had been set up. Two of the men were killed, while the others escaped. Glass found himself alone again.

See Leonardo DiCaprio’s Best Roles

What's Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993.

Glass had lost his gun but still had his flint and knife. He was reported to say of these circumstances, “These little fixin’s make a man feel right pert when he is three or four hundred miles from anybody or anywhere.” They were apparently enough to sustain him until he eventually reached Fort Kiowa, later that spring.

What happened there, however, was rather anti-climactic:

“In June he walked into the fort at last to face those who had deserted him. Reports of his superhuman journey and vengeful desire had already reached the fort; he was received with awe and expectation, but his rage had been completely exhausted by the nine-month trek. Nothing happened.”

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass in The Revenant

How historically accurate is The Revenant?

The Leonardo DiCaprio adventure takes the basic facts of real-life frontiersman Hugh Glass’s ordeal and adds extra characters, extra ultraviolence and more horse guts

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu Entertainment grade: B– History grade: C–

This article contains spoilers.

Hugh Glass was a frontiersman working in the upper Missouri river area in the early years of the 19th century. On a fur trapping expedition in 1823, he was attacked and mauled by a grizzly bear.

Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is one of a group of men finishing up a fur trapping expedition in the wilderness. They are attacked by Ree (Arikara) warriors. Whoosh! Someone gets impaled on a spear. Bang! Someone gets shot off his horse. Crack! Someone’s bones shatter. There’s an unflinching close-up of an arrow thwacking into a face, a gun butt bashing into a face, a flying kick to a face. A horse gets shot in the face. It’s exceptionally well choreographed and filmed.

This scene is based on a real-life incident: William H Ashley and Andrew Henry (the latter played by Domhnall Gleeson in the film) set up the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in 1822. In June 1823, Ashley’s band of around 70 men was attacked by Arikara warriors – they estimated around 600, though in the film it’s more like a dozen. Various accounts suggest that between 12 and 18 of Ashley’s men were killed.

In the film, 10 men get away. Among them are Captain Henry, Glass, Glass’s son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) and trappers John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter). They have a conversation, but it’s all so extravagantly mumbled that it’s hard to work out what’s going on. Fitzgerald is fighty and racist, so he’s the baddie. Glass is the goodie, because he loves his son (who is half-Pawnee ) in a gruff, manly way that involves telling him off a lot. The backstory about Glass’s love for a Pawnee woman is fiction. It has been suggested the real Glass had such a relationship, but there’s no firm evidence – and no evidence that he had any children.

As the men make their way through a forest, Glass happens upon two bear cubs and their angry mama. If you felt wan after the face-smashing scene at the start, reach for the smelling salts. Chomp! Growl! Shake! The bear sniffs him to see if he’s dead, then jumps up and down on his back. Splinter! Howl! Slash! Glass shoots the bear. That really gets on its wick. It tries to rip his throat out. He stabs it in the neck. It flops on him and dies heavily, squishing him like a punctured bouncy castle full of blood.

The cinema audience is by this point laughing, half in horror and half because the scene goes on for so long that it becomes comical. Anyway, while historians are not certain of the precise details, the real Glass did get into a fight with a real bear, some time in August 1823.

The men find Glass in a rum old state. Captain Henry pays Fitzgerald, Bridger and Hawk to stay behind until it is time for Glass’s inevitable burial. When the captain leaves, Fitzgerald tries to bump Glass off. Hawk interrupts, so Fitzgerald bumps him off instead. This didn’t happen in real life, because Hawk didn’t exist. In the film, the ailing Glass sees Fitzgerald kill his son, giving him an extra motivation to stay alive and seek revenge. When Fitzgerald persuades Bridger to bury Glass alive and abandon him, you know Glass isn’t going to go quietly.

The real Glass survived his abandonment and dragged his battered body over hundreds of miles of terrain in pursuit of the men who left him for dead. Though he could read and write, Glass never set his story down in his own hand. It was first published by another writer in The Port Folio , a Philadelphia journal, in 1825. It may well have been embroidered then. It has been embroidered many times since.

The film has invented some extra obstacles for Glass: it is snowing throughout, even though in real life his trek took place between August and October; the Arikara track him and chase him into a tree; he has to hollow out a dead horse to make himself a sleeping bag. It’s brilliantly filmed, but the characterisations and dialogue don’t match the sophistication of the visuals. Moreover, by the second lingering closeup of a horse’s eye or the sixth epic landscape shot with four-fifths sky and one-fifth land, even those sophisticated visuals begin to feel repetitive. As for the ending, it has been changed in one significant way: in real life, nobody got killed.

The Revenant is an impressive film inspired by Glass’s real-life story, but lays it on a bit thick and ends up curiously unmoving. The whole thing is begging to be sped up into a two-minute YouTube video set to Benny Hill music.

  • The Revenant
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The Real Story of 'The Revenant' Is Far Weirder (and Bloodier) Than the Movie

The Real Story of ‘The Revenant’ Is Far Weirder (and Bloodier) Than the Movie

Hugh Glass, the protagonist of the story, never was chased off a cliff, cut a dead horse open for warmth or had a half-Pawnee son. But the frontiersman played by DiCaprio lived a life even more fantastical than any film.

By Steve Friedman

Steve Friedman

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This story first appeared in the March 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe .

Before a grizzly tore a hunk of meat from his rump and lobbed it to her squalling cubs, Hugh Glass was just a middle-aged pirate who had abandoned ship, then dodged two tribes of cannibals only to witness his friend being roasted alive. And then things turned really nasty.

That’s the story, anyway. But it’s not the one told in The Revenant , the Alejandro G. Inarritu-directed Oscar favorite, in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s Glass is chased off a cliff, recalls his Pawnee wife, eats raw buffalo liver — and mainly, drags his grizzly-ravaged body hundreds of miles through a wintry frontier, driven by bloodlust for the men who had left him to die.

The real Glass, however, made much of his journey in late summer. And he had no Pawnee wife. Even the liver is not a sure thing.

To separate mythology from biography, it helps to remember that the film is based in part on a 2002 work of fiction, which itself is based in part on the three earliest written and largely forgotten accounts of Glass’ adventures. None of those authors knew Glass, and one of them, a novelist, wrote the forgettable sequel Monte Cristo’s Daughter . Thucydides , these guys were not. But their accounts, as well as letters, testimony, trapper memoirs and a rich oral history, are what is left regarding Glass’ life.

Based on those sources, this much is certain: Glass was alive, he survived a grizzly attack and he died. There is no evidence he had a Native American wife or girlfriend, or that he had a son by a Native American woman, or that he plunged off a cliff on a horse, or that he gutted and climbed into a dead horse to stay warm or for any other reason.

Glass lived in Pennsylvania, where he might have had a wife and two sons whom he abandoned. He was a sea captain already in his 30s when pirates attacked his ship off the coast of what is now Texas in 1819. The pirate captain offered Glass a choice: Join their crew, or join the scores of bleeding, gutted, naked, screaming and drowning men, women and children bobbing in the choppy waters below. Glass joined.

After a year of pillaging, kidnapping, killing and the like, Glass and another pirate jumped overboard and swam toward Campeche (now Galveston), the primitive headquarters of Jean Lafitte , who, it turned out, was Glass’ pirate boss’ boss. The two deserters slunk north toward St. Louis, the westernmost locus of American civilization. They took special care to avoid, to the east, the Karankawa , notorious for eating settlers (tribesmen called the dish “long pig”). The duo couldn’t stray too far west, though, because there dwelled the slightly pickier Tonkawas , who included only severed human hands and feet in their diet (to ingest extra strength and speed).

On they pressed, away from these man-eating tribes and Lafitte’s band of murderers and toward Comanche, Kiowa and Osage, the former two scary, the latter really scary (the Osage eschewed scalping in favor of decapitation). When Glass and his pal ultimately were captured, 1,000 miles after emerging from the water, it was by Pawnee, which should have provided a measure of relief. Alas, the Loup branch of the Pawnee regularly offered human sacrifices to the god of the morning star — usually young girls from the village. But an exception was made for a couple guys who represented the vanguard of an invading, land-grabbing, genocidal force.

A gang of Pawnee stripped and tied Glass’ friend to a stake. As Glass watched, they stuck slivers of resinous pine into his friend’s flesh, then lit them. When it was Glass’ turn, he bowed before the chief, then reached into his pocket and produced a vial of cinnabar, the flaky red mineral then found in Texas and used around the world for makeup and pottery. War paint, too. The chief was impressed by the gift, as well as the sangfroid with which the white man presented it. Somehow, the pirate turned mutineer turned fugitive escaped the flaming porcupine treatment and became an honorary Pawnee.

revenant movie ending meaning

Other than omitting a futile attempt by Glass to climb a tree and an early on-target gunshot, the grizzly attack depicted in ‘The Revenant’ largely is accurate.

He learned lance throwing, tomahawk chopping, and how to break and suck the marrow from buffalo bones. He ate his share of dog (don’t judge). It was during this period that he likely procured his legendary and beloved rifle, the mighty and thunderous .54 caliber Hawken to which Glass grew profoundly attached and that later would cause him so much trouble.

After two years, in January 1823, Glass headed east with the chief to meet with the U.S. Superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis. Afterward, the chief returned to lead his tribe while Glass stayed in town. He answered an ad placed in the Missouri Republican by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, which was seeking 100 men to pack up and leave fancy duds, womenfolk and saloons behind to head into the Rocky Mountains. There, for $200 annually, they would trap beaver.

Men who didn’t respond to the ad were enlisted from “grog shops and other sinks of degradation,” according to a recruiter. Many would go on to form the sweaty, calloused core of the country’s mid-19th century trapping force. It was risky, hard labor that favored the ornery. So maybe it’s unsurprising that the trappers tended to be some of the more profane, violent, nature-despoiling, aboriginal land-trespassing, wildlife-poaching, gun-toting cusses ever to range the Rockies.

The party, led by Gen. William Ashley, set out on the Missouri River in early March, and except for one man falling overboard and drowning the first day, and three others being blown to bits when someone lit a pipe too close to a pile of explosives, the trip began smoothly. At least until Ashley went ashore to talk business with the Arikara (aka the Rees). Could Chief Grey Eyes and his warriors, by reputation suspicious and at times murderous regarding trespassers, spare 50 horses? Why yes, Chief Grey Eyes replied, as long as Ashley could spare a few kegs of gunpowder. A deal was struck, goods exchanged and most of the crew set up camp on a sandbar near the Arikara village. They would continue downriver in the morning.

All went without incident that evening, notwithstanding the throat-slitting of young Aaron Stephens, one of the many trappers who had visited the Ree village to celebrate the procurement of horses by fornicating with a village maiden.

The Rees attacked in the morning, wounding Glass and killing 15 of his companions. Which brings us to the film’s first scene, with Leo dodging arrows and barely making it to the boat that took the trappers downriver to safety.

The film skips over the counterattack and subsequent siege of a Ree village that involved Ashley’s men, another trapping party led by a Lt. Andrew Henry, 250 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Sioux, who harbored a deep and abiding antipathy for the Ree. It was the first military encounter between the U.S. and Native Americans in the West, and relations pretty much went downhill from there.

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How 'the revenant's' vfx team brought that bear to life.

revenant movie ending meaning

John Fitzgerald and the teenager named Bridger did volunteer to stay with Glass until he died, and they did betray him, but the famed trapper’s quest ended without bloody vengeance in the mountains. In real life, Glass mostly just wanted his rifle back.

But back to the film — namely, that grizzly attack: Glass left Ashley’s group to join Henry’s (don’t ask), and early in the journey, Henry sent two of his now roughly 30-strong group to hunt some meat, telling the rest, including Glass, to stay put. But our protagonist had never liked orders. Also, he hankered for some berries.

He was standing in a berry patch when Ol’ Ephraim — that’s what mountain men back then called grizzlies, even females — charged. Glass shot her with his rifle. It was a good shot, but Ol’ Ephraim kept charging. Glass ran to a tree, but as he began to climb, O.E. grabbed him, threw him to the ground and tore some meat out of his rear. She tossed the meal to her cubs, who probably had never tasted man before (odds are they liked it). Then Ol’ Ephraim returned her attention to Glass. She raked her claws across his back, bit him about the head and shook him like a rag doll. Glass moved in close and slashed the bear repeatedly with his knife. He tried to yell, but what came out was a kind of high-pitched gargling, as his throat had been torn open and was gushing blood.

The grizzly fell, dead either by Glass’ shot or by those fired by two hunters who had heard the commotion. Fellow trappers bound Glass’ wounds as best they could, using sweaty, soiled pieces of fabric ripped from their shirts. The next morning, having abandoned their boat, the group marched on, carrying Glass on a litter made from branches.

It slowed them down. They knew hostiles were nearby. On the fifth day or so, Henry offered cash (accounts vary between $80 and $400) to any two men who would stay with Glass until he died, then meet the others at his namesake Fort Henry.

One volunteer, an otherwise forgettable figure, was named John Fitzgerald. The other was a teenager named Bridger. They kept Glass comfortable and waited for him to die.

After five days, though, the men had a talk (which Glass reportedly later told another trapper he’d overheard). No one had expected Glass to live this long, and no one would want the pair to stay. Glass was going to die anyway, Fitzgerald told the kid. It was only a matter of time before Ree or Cheyenne found them. And besides, they had already earned their money. The two men left Glass next to a nearby stream, underneath a berry bush. Just in case.

Fitzgerald and Bridger took Glass’ rifle, knife, tomahawk and flint; if they showed up empty-handed, Henry would have asked where the weapons were, and they wouldn’t get paid.

'The Revenant' Producer on the Bear Scene That Took on "Myths of Its Own"

revenant movie ending meaning

In the film, Glass has a half-Pawnee son whose murder fuels his fierce pursuit of justice. There’s only one minor problem: Glass never had a half-Pawnee son.

But Fitzgerald never tried to suffocate Glass, as he does in the film, nor did he murder Glass’ beloved half-Pawnee son — mostly because Glass didn’t have a beloved half-Pawnee son. But seeking vengeance against a child killer is box-office gold.

The two minders set out for Fort Henry, and while the film depicts their journey as perilous and semi-epic, it was neither. They arrived two days after the others, displayed Glass’ armaments and collected their reward. While the duo’s conduct was dastardly by modern sensibilities, leaving their sure-to-die comrade wasn’t what got mountain men talking. They were a hard lot with an affinity for risk management. Heinous and unforgiveable to mountain men, however, was taking a man’s only means of survival — his tools.

As for what happens next — Glass’ solitary crawl to Fort Kiowa, which comprises the bulk of The Revenant — all we have to go on is the savaged trapper’s testimony, as passed on to a bunch of lying, hard-drinking louts with nicknames like Pegleg and Liver-Eating, who, in turn, relayed the account to reporters and writers of not much greater repute.

Still, one can ascertain with high probability a few things: One of Glass’ legs was broken, and his throat had been mangled so terribly that he’d never speak in the same voice again. He would lie next to the stream for five days, subsisting on a large rattlesnake he killed with a sharp stone. (Filmgoers might have gone for the rattlesnake eating. Go figure.)

He did crawl, and then crawled some more, and after that, he limped. The film got that right.

He did not get chased off a cliff, nor did he crawl inside a horse carcass for warmth. He did not meet a Native American with a sly sense of humor who tossed him a buffalo liver. Perhaps he ate some liver on his sojourn, but the truth is, he ate far more dog. Dog eating was not such a big deal back then. The Comanche thought it was disgusting, true, but it was a staple of the Sioux diet. The Kickapoo revered dogs, believing they had spirits like humans and lived in heaven after death. The Kickapoo bottle-fed their dogs, kept their paws from the dusty ground, washed and swaddled and sang to them. They also ate puppy stew.

But enough with the dog-eating. What about the buffalo? Glass did, in fact, eat a calf that was being worked over by wolves. And yes, if the wolves hadn’t gotten to it first, he probably ate the liver. And he did shoo the wolves away, but he waited till he saw they had eaten their fill.

Did he burn with rage and seethe with the compulsion to seek justice, to kill the men who had betrayed him, as the film depicts? You bet he did.

'The Revenant': Film Review

revenant movie ending meaning

Three books on the life of Hugh Glass were written long before Michael Punke’s 2002 novel, The Revenant, including the closest thing to a historical account, ‘The Saga of Hugh Glass,’ which was published in 1976.

But not for child murder — he just wanted his gun back. His beloved and trustworthy Hawken. And if he had to crawl and limp 350 miles to kill the bastard who stole it, so be it. The film doesn’t get into the whole man-rifle bond too much. It also doesn’t mention the few days Glass spent with some friendly Sioux, who welcomed him to their village, where they cleaned the maggots from his back wound and poured vegetable juice on it.

Glass kept walking. After many weeks, he joined six French traders at Fort Kiowa, who he thought might drop him off near Fort Tilton, where he suspected the rifle thieves would be. After six weeks he parted ways with the Frenchmen. Just a mile later, they were butchered by Ree. Some Ree spotted Glass and gave chase, but a Mandan on horseback swept in, pulled him aboard and took him to his village. Mandans generally didn’t like Ree. The Mandan villagers made a big deal over him. For supper? Man’s best friend.

Glass then decided to go to Fort Henry, about 400 miles back in the direction from which he’d come. He never floated downstream in frigid water (it would have killed him), but he did stop at a fort to ask after his two sworn enemies and to catch up on mountain man gossip. There was another Ree attack that he managed to survive. There was a stretch where he subsisted on more bison calf, but now, stronger, he simply walked into a vast herd, ran down a calf, killed it, cooked it and ate it.

Can you blame Inarritu for leaving out so much? Who wants to see a dog-and-calf buffet? Who would believe a guy went through all that trouble for a rifle? Too many miles, too many Ree attacks, too many arrows. The film already runs two hours and 36 minutes.

Glass eventually found Bridger at Fort Henry, and Bridger thought he was a ghost. Instead of killing him, Glass lectured the kid and told him he knew Fitzgerald had persuaded him to leave. Then Glass invoked God and told Bridger to behave better in the future.

Revenant ‘s Glass finally tracks down Fitzgerald, wounds him, then floats him downstream to a gang of Ree, who finish the job. But that’s not what really happened. When Glass arrived at Fort Atkinson in 1824, after another long trek, he learned that while Fitzgerald was indeed present, he had enlisted in the Army. A captain named Bennet Riley informed Glass that he could not kill a soldier — if he did, he’d be tried for murder. When Riley heard Glass’ story, he offered to fetch Glass’ beloved rifle back. What a reunion it must have been.

The film’s final shot is of a terribly wronged but righteous man, peering with grit and hard-won wisdom into a forbidding but conquerable wilderness. Not even a Texas state school board would quibble with that vision of how the West was won. If you like Manifest Destiny, this ending is for you.

Another popular version of the Glass legend has him suf­fering and crawling, but instead of dispatching his arch-enemy, he finds himself swollen with empathy and love, and turns his chiseled, manly cheek and forgives Fitzgerald, as he did Bridger. This too syncs with our notions of how the West was won, or conquered, or not exactly stolen. Forgiveness works about as well as vengeance, as long as you get other stuff right.

What actually happened was more complex. Glass tried his hand at trading in New Mexico, didn’t like it and went back to trapping. Then Europeans developed a taste for cloth hats, and the trapping business dried up. Wagon trains started coming, too, and along with them women, children, dogs whose owners objected to them becoming a source of protein. Civilization.

Fitzgerald was never heard from again. Bridger went on to establish, in 1842 in southwestern Wyoming, the first resupply post for settlers on the Oregon, California and Mormon trails, opening up the path west and effectively ending the era of the mountain man. And the ne plus ultra of those unruly, undisciplined, comfort-spurning creatures?

Glass endured, as the world he knew best faded away. He took a job with a new fur company. He trapped some himself. He told stories about the old days, including some juicy ones about grizzlies and rattlesnakes. Some say his greatest talent was in creating and polishing the Legend of Hugh Glass.

In the winter of 1832-33, Glass was living at Fort Cass, a new garrison built near the junction of the Yellowstone and Bighorn rivers. He worked as a hunter, procuring meat for the trappers of the American Fur Company, owned by John Jacob Astor. One cold morning in the spring of 1833, he and two other hunters left the fort looking to kill a bear or two. They hadn’t walked far, and it was considered safe territory. As they made their way across the frozen Yellowstone River, 30 Ree on horseback surrounded them.

They took Glass’ clothes, his gear. Then they scalped him.

Nothing heroic about his death. Nothing tied to the American dream or the nobility of pioneers. Glass had grown overconfident. He had grown careless. He had grown old.

revenant movie ending meaning

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Notes From The Frontier

  • Mar 21, 2020

The True Story Behind The Revenant

Updated: May 4, 2023

revenant movie ending meaning

One of my all-time favorite movies is the multiple-Oscar-winning frontier movie, The Revenant (meaning one who returns, especially from the dead ) . It is one of the most realistic, gritty, and magnificently beautiful depictions of life in the early frontier. Viewing the movie, you can see, hear, smell, even feel the reality of that harsh but exciting existence. I also love the movie because it is based on a true story—one of the most amazing frontier stories ever told—of frontiersman Hugh Glass and his epic survival in the wilderness after being mauled nearly to death by a grizzly, then left for dead by his companions.

revenant movie ending meaning

Glass was born to immigrant Irish parents in Pennsylvania and at an early age took off to seek adventure. In 1822 he joined General William Ashley’s corps of 100 men to ascend to the Missouri River as part of a fur-trading venture. Many of the men of the corps would later become famous frontiersmen, including James Beckwourth, Thomas Fitzpatrick, and Jim Bridger, in addition to Hugh Glass.

In the first year of the expedition, Glass was shot in the leg by attacking Arikara. Frontiersmen were successful in trading with many tribes and cultivated cordial relationships, but the Arikara remained distrustful of and hostile to the early whites. The next year the corps set out to explore the Yellowstone River when Glass, scouting for game for the expedition near Grand River (in today’s Perkins County, South Dakota) when he surprised a she-bear with two cubs. She charged, picked him up and shook him several times, pinned him to the ground, clawed him and took his flesh in her jaws, ripping his back and chest open, leaving the ribs exposed. He was left mortally mauled.

Below is a famous bear attack scene in The Revenant.

VIDEO- The Revenant bear attack scene:

revenant movie ending meaning

The corps carried Glass on a litter for two days, but slowed the pace. Two volunteers, Thomas Fitzpatrick and Jim Bridger, offered to stay with him until he died. They later claimed that they began digging his grave, when Arikara attacked. They grabbed all the arms and equipment, including Glass’s rifle and knife, and left him for dead, completely defenseless. Later, when they caught up with the corps, Fitzgerald and Bridger reported to the general that Glass had died.

But the story does not end there. Glass regained consciousness. He had lost a great deal of blood, his leg was broken, his back mutilated and his chest ripped open. He was 200 miles from the nearest settlement, Fort Kiowa. Glass set the bone on his own leg and bound his wounds with grass and a mud poultice. Cloaked in a bear hide that had been left on him as a shroud , he began crawling toward Fort Kiowa. He allowed the maggots to thrive in his wounds, eating the rotting flesh to prevent gangrene.

revenant movie ending meaning

When he reached the Cheyenne River, about half way to Fort Kiowa, he fashioned a crude raft of tree limbs bound with willow and grasses and floated the rest of the way to Fort Kiowa. He survived on roots and wild berries.

The 2015 movie, The Revenant , directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, retells the survival story with gritty realism and gory detail against a backdrop of the West’s magnificent grandeur. The movie received 12 nominations and won Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography. The film was shot in twelve locations in three countries: Canada, the United States, and Argentina. Filming was done under notoriously harsh conditions.

revenant movie ending meaning

In the movie, along Glass’s journey, he is attacked by Arikara and escapes on an Appaloosa horse he had absconded with and, in a wild chase, his horse leaps over a cliff with a waterfall to its death. The waterfall scene was filmed at the Kootenai Falls near Libby, Montana. In order to keep from freezing to death, DiCaprio as Glass slits open his horse’s underbelly, pulls out all the innards and crawls into the carcass.

Glass would make it to Fort Kiowa. It would take him six weeks. There he convalesced, then set out to find Bridger and Fitzgerald. He found both men, but ultimately forgave Bridger for his youth, believing Fitzgerald was the culprit.

revenant movie ending meaning

He later found Fitzgerald at Fort Atkinson, Nebraska, as a soldier. There, Glass was told by an Army captain he would be hung for killing an Army soldier. Fitzgerald was forced to return Glass’s gun and compensate him with $300, an immense amount of money for the day. Glass, however, told Fitzgerald that if he ever left the Army, he'd kill him.

Glass went on to work for General Ashley for ten more years, until he was attacked by his old enemies, The Arikara, and killed in 1833 on the Yellowstone River. Today, a powerful monument—an iron sculpture depicting Glass fighting the grizzly—stands near the site of his mauling. But his legacy lives on, a paean to the miraculous grit and fortitude of the early frontiersmen who paved the way for western expansion in the American frontier.

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"The True Story Behind The Revenant" was first published on Facebook and on March 21, 2020

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Deborah Hufford

Author, Notes from the Frontier

Deborah Hufford is an award-winning author and magazine editor with a passion for history. Her popular blog with 100,000+ readers has led to an upcoming novel ! Growing up as an Iowa farmgirl, rodeo queen and voracious reader, her love of land, lore and literature fired her writing muse. With a Bachelor's in English and Master's in Journalism from the University of Iowa , she taught students of Iowa's Writer's Workshop , then at Northwestern University , Marquette and Mount Mary . Her extensive publishing career began at Better Homes & Gardens , includes credits in New York Times Magazine , New York Times , Connoisseur , many other titles, and serving as publisher of The Writer's Handbook . 

Deeply devoted to social justice, especially for veterans, women, and Native Americans, she has served on boards and donated her fundraising skills to Chief Joseph Foundation , Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women ( MMIW ), Homeless Veterans Initiative , Humane Society , and other nonprofits.  

Deborah's soon-to-be released historical novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES weaves indigenous and pioneer history, strong women and clashing worlds into a sweeping saga praised by NYT bestselling authors as "crushing," "rhapsodic," "gritty," and "sensuous." Purchase BLOOD TO RUBIES online beginning June 9. Connect with Deborah on , Facebook , and Instagram .

deborah hufford.webp

Movie Reviews

Tv/streaming, collections, great movies, chaz's journal, contributors, the revenant.

revenant movie ending meaning

Now streaming on:

Great film has the power to convey the unimaginable. We sit in the comfort of a darkened theater or our living room and watch protagonists suffer through physical and emotional pain that most of us can’t really comprehend. Too often, these endurance tests feel manipulative or, even worse, false. We’re smart enough to “see the strings” being pulled, and the actor and set never fades away into the character and condition. What’s remarkable about Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” is how effectively it transports us to another time and place, while always maintaining its worth as a piece of visual art. You don’t just watch “The Revenant,” you experience it. You walk out of it exhausted, impressed with the overall quality of the filmmaking and a little more grateful for the creature comforts of your life.

Iñárritu and co-writer Mark L. Smith set their tone early, staging a breathtaking assault on a group of fur trappers by Native Americans, portrayed not just as “enemies” but a violent force of nature. While a few dozen men are preparing to pack up and move on to their next stop in the great American wilderness, a scene out of “ Apocalypse Now ” unfolds. Arrows pierce air and flesh as the few surviving men flee to a nearby boat. It turns out that the tribe is seeking a kidnapped daughter of its leader, and will kill anyone who gets in their way. At the same time, we learn that one of the trappers, Hugh Glass ( Leonardo DiCaprio ) has a half-Native American son named Hawk (Forrest Goodluck).

Low on men and hunted, the expedition leader Andrew Henry ( Domhnall Gleeson ) orders that their crew return to its base, a fort in the middle of this snowy wilderness. John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) disagrees, and the seeds of dissent are planted. He doesn’t trust Henry, and he doesn’t like Glass. In the midst of these discussions, Glass is away from the crew one day when he’s brutally attacked by a bear—the sequence is, without hyperbole, one of the most stunning things I’ve seen on film in a long time, heart-racing and terrifying. Glass barely survives the attack. It seems highly unlikely that he’ll make it back to the base. With increasingly dangerous conditions and a tribe of killers on their heels, they agree to split up. Most of the men will go back first while Fitzgerald, Hawk and a young man named Bridger ( Will Poulter ) will get a sizable fee to stay with Glass until he dies, giving him as much comfort as possible in his final days and the burial he deserves.

Of course, Fitzgerald quickly tires of having to watch a man he doesn’t care about die. He kills Hawk in front of an immobile Glass and then basically buries Hugh alive. As Bridger and Fitzgerald head back, Glass essentially rises from the dead (the word revenant means “one that returns after death or a long absence”) and begins his quest for vengeance. With broken bones, no food, and miles to go, he pulls himself through snow and across mountains, seeking the man who killed his son. He is practically a ghost, a man who has come as close to death as one possibly can but is unwilling to go to the other side until justice is done.

The bulk of “The Revenant” consists of this torturous journey, as Glass regains his strength and gets closer to home through sheer force of will. Iñárritu’s Oscar-winning cinematographer for “ Birdman ,” Emmanuel Lubezki (who also took a trophy for “ Gravity ” the year before and could easily make it three in a row for this work) shoots “The Revenant” in a way that conveys both the harrowing conditions and the artistry of his vision. The sky seems to go on forever; the horizon is neverending. He works in a color palette provided by nature, and yet enhanced. The snow seems whiter, the sky bluer. Many of his shots, especially in times of great danger like the opening attack and the bear scene, are unbroken — placing us in the middle of the action.

At other times, Lubezki’s choices recall his work on “The Tree of Life,” especially in scenes in the second half when Glass’s journey gets more mystical. And that’s where the film falters a bit.  Iñárritu  doesn’t quite have a handle on those second-half scenes and the 156-minute running time begins to feel self-indulgent as the film loses focus. When it centers on the conditions and the tale of a man unwilling to die, it’s mesmerizing. I just think there’s a tighter version, especially in the mid-section, that would be even more effective.

About that man: So much has been made of this film being DiCaprio’s “Overdue Oscar” shot that I feel like his actual work here will be undervalued. Make no mistake. Should he win, it will not be some “Lifetime Achievement” win as we’ve seen in the past for actors who we all thought should have won for another film ( Paul Newman , Al Pacino , etc.). He’s completely committed in every terrifying moment, pushing himself further than he ever has before as an actor. Even just the physical demands of this protagonist would have been enough to break a lot of lesser actors, but it’s the way in which DiCaprio captures his internal fortitude that’s captivating—his body may be broken, but we believe he is unwilling to give up.

The minimal supporting cast is good, and it’s nice to see Gleeson continue to have an incredible 2015 (also in “ Brooklyn ,” “ Ex Machina ” and “ Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens ”). Tom Hardy is less effective, often going a little too heavy on the tics (wide eyes, shot up-close), but I think that’s a fault of the direction and not one of our best actors. In the end, this is DiCaprio’s film through and through, and he nails every challenging beat, literally throwing himself into this character that demands more of him physically than any other before. 

What would you do for vengeance? What conditions could you surmount to get it? Or would you just give up? Our favorite films often drop questions like these into our lives, allowing us to appreciate the world a little differently than before we saw them. “The Revenant” has this power. It lingers. It hangs in the back of your mind like the best classic parables of man vs. nature. It will stay there for quite some time. 

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Film Credits

The Revenant movie poster

The Revenant (2015)

Rated R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity.

156 minutes

Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass

Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald

Will Poulter as Jim Bridger

Domhnall Gleeson as Andrew Henry

Paul Anderson as Anderson

Brad Carter as Johnnie

Kristoffer Joner as Murphy

Brendan Fletcher as Fryman

Joshua Burge as Stubby Bill

Robert Moloney as Dave Chapman

  • Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Mark L. Smith
  • Michael Punke

Director of Photography

  • Emmanuel Lubezki
  • Stephen Mirrione
  • Bryce Dessner
  • Carsten Nicolai
  • Ryûichi Sakamoto

Production Design

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The Incredible True Story Behind ‘The Revenant’

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

The highly acclaimed 2015 movie The Revenant stunned audiences with its gripping story and beautiful cinematography, weaving an epic tale of resilience and revenge.

Although the filmmakers took some liberties in bringing the story to life, the events shown in the movie are, remarkably, based on true events.

The Revenant was inspired by the story of Hugh Glass, an American frontiersman, fur trapper and explorer who operated around the Upper Missouri River in the early 19th century.

Illustration of Hugh Glass and his legendary bear attack published at the time for a newspaper.

Illustration of Hugh Glass and his legendary bear attack published at the time for a newspaper.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, in 1823 he was working as a guide for General William Henry Ashley, who intended to lead a fur trading expedition up the Missouri River.

Expeditions of this kind were a dangerous endeavor. Fur trapping parties were at risk of attack from Arikara warriors, and Ashley’s party soon suffered an assault that killed 15 people. Glass himself was wounded in the attack, which would be the catalyst for the Arikara War.

However, the risk of conflict was not the only danger facing the fur trading party. This region, in modern-day South Dakota, was wild country, populated by fearsome grizzly bears.

The 200 mile route of the 1823 odyssey by Glass.

The 200 mile route of the 1823 odyssey by Glass.

These great beasts could rise over 12 feet tall and typically weighed around three quarters of a ton. An encounter with a grizzly left little chance of survival.

One day, while scouting ahead of the rest of the party, Glass accidentally stumbled on a grizzly bear and her two cubs. He fired a shot straight into her chest, but the bear continued her attack.

A century after the events unfolded, the Milwaukee Journal published an article about the exploits of Hugh Glass.

A century after the events unfolded, the Milwaukee Journal published an article about the exploits of Hugh Glass.

According to The Telegraph, Glass was just able to hold her off with his hunting knife until his companions caught up with him and managed to kill the bear.

Glass was semi-unconscious, bleeding heavily and had suffered serious wounds on his limbs and torso, in addition to a fractured leg. His companions believed there was little hope of survival, and so they made him comfortable and waited for the inevitable. Take a closer look with the following video:

The next day, Glass showed little sign of improvement, but he clung persistently to life. Torn between a sense of loyalty to Glass and the need to move the company away from Arikara territory before they were attacked again, the leader of the group decided to pay two men to remain behind with Glass until he died.

Arikara warrior

Arikara warrior

These men were John Fitzgerald and a youth named Jim Bridger. They stayed with Glass for a week, but as the days passed, and Glass continued to struggle on, Fitzgerald became increasingly anxious.

He convinced Bridger to abandon Glass, arguing that there was no sense in all three men losing their lives. They took all the supplies and tools, leaving Glass utterly alone and defenseless.

Incredibly, Glass regained consciousness and gradually began to recover his strength. Initially he was unable to stand, but successfully dragged himself to a nearby river where he survived on water and whatever roots and berries he could find.

Some mountain men maintained a close relationship with the Native American tribes

Some mountain men maintained a close relationship with the Native American tribes

According to The Telegraph, he was forced to set his own broken leg, and allowed maggots to eat away at the dead flesh of his wounds to prevent gangrene. Later he feasted on the rotting meat of abandoned kills, and little by little, he began to drag himself towards the nearest settlement, Fort Kiowa, a staggering 250 miles away.

As the days passed, Glass grew stronger and was finally able to stand. One day he interrupted a group of wolves that had just killed a buffalo calf, and he knew that this would determine his survival. He chased away the pack and feasted on the carcass for several days.

Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Glass’s survival journey did not take place in the cold season, nor did it involve tall mountain ranges. Photo by Spencer CC BY-SA 2.5

Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Glass’s survival journey did not take place in the cold season, nor did it involve tall mountain ranges. Photo by Spencer CC BY-SA 2.5

Eventually he came to the Cheyenne River, where he was able to fashion a raft and float downstream to Fort Kiowa. At the forefront of his mind was the image of the faces of the two men who had abandoned him; he was determined to survive just in order to look them in the eye and have his revenge.

Finally, after six weeks of travel, Glass came to Fort Kiowa. Having recuperated from his ordeal, he was determined to seek out Fitzgerald and Bridger. He first encountered Bridger, but took mercy on him when he realized the boy’s youth and remorse for what he had done, under Fitzgerald’s instruction.

This life-size Hybrid Metal Art sculpture features Hugh Glass being mauled by a Grizzly Bear. Photo byJohn Lee Lopez CC BY-SA 4.0

This life-size Hybrid Metal Art sculpture features Hugh Glass being mauled by a Grizzly Bear. Photo by John Lee Lopez CC BY-SA 4.0

However, Glass was still consumed by rage against Fitzgerald. When he finally caught up with him, he discovered that Fitzgerald had signed up as a scout in the US army, making him effectively untouchable. Glass vowed that the day Fitzgerald left the army he would no longer be safe, and that he would pursue him to his death.

But Glass was never able to fulfill this promise. He returned to life as a guide and fur trapper, and eventually met his end at the hands of the Arikara in 1833. Although his life was cut short, Hugh Glass is remembered throughout the United States for his incredible feat of survival.

Read another story from us: William Wallace – The True Story Behind Scotland’s Most Famous Hero

There are no written sources from Glass himself concerning his ordeal, and the earliest written record is an account published in the literary journal The Portfolio. It is impossible to know how much of the story is fact, and how much is literary embellishment.

Nevertheless, it remains a timeless tale of endurance, tenacity and retribution, and it continues to resonate with readers and audiences today.

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The Revenant

2015, Adventure/Western, 2h 36m

What to know

Critics Consensus

As starkly beautiful as it is harshly uncompromising, The Revenant uses Leonardo DiCaprio's committed performance as fuel for an absorbing drama that offers punishing challenges -- and rich rewards. Read critic reviews

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The revenant videos, the revenant   photos.

While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) sustains life-threatening injuries from a brutal bear attack. When a member (Tom Hardy) of his hunting team kills his young son (Forrest Goodluck) and leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back to civilization. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, the legendary fur trapper treks through the snowy terrain to track down the man who betrayed him.

Rating: R (Brief Nudity|A Sexual Assault|Violence|Gory Images|Language|Strong Frontier Combat)

Genre: Adventure, Western

Original Language: English

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Producer: Arnon Milchan , Steve Golin , Alejandro González Iñárritu , Mary Parent , Keith Redmon , James W. Skotchdopole

Writer: Mark L. Smith , Alejandro González Iñárritu

Release Date (Theaters): Jan 8, 2016  wide

Release Date (Streaming): Mar 22, 2016

Box Office (Gross USA): $183.6M

Runtime: 2h 36m

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Production Co: Appian Way, New Regency Pictures, M Prods, Anonymous Content

Sound Mix: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, SDDS, Datasat

Aspect Ratio: Scope (2.35:1)

Cast & Crew

Leonardo DiCaprio

John Fitzgerald

Domhnall Gleeson

Captain Andrew Henry

Will Poulter

Forrest Goodluck

Paul Anderson

Kristoffer Joner

Joshua Burge

Stubby Bill

Duane Howard

Melaw Nakehk'o

Fabrice Adde

Arthur Redcloud

Christopher Rosamund

Robert Moloney

Dave Stomach Wound

Brendan Fletcher

McCaleb Burnett

Wife of Hugh Glass

Alejandro González Iñárritu

Mark L. Smith


Arnon Milchan

Steve Golin

Mary Parent

Keith Redmon

James W. Skotchdopole

Brett Ratner

Executive Producer

James Packer

Jennifer Davisson Killoran

David Kanter

Markus Barmettler

Emmanuel Lubezki


Stephen Mirrione

Film Editing

Ryuichi Sakamoto

Original Music

Carsten Nicolai

News & Interviews for The Revenant

Tom Hardy’s 10 Best Movies

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Critic Reviews for The Revenant

Audience reviews for the revenant.

Exceptionally beautiful direction and screenplay by Iñárritu. Superb cinematography. Poignant soundtrack. Brilliant performances (although Hardy's mumbling was difficult to discern oftimes). Fantastic costumes and sound. There's nothing not to love about this graceful, poetic and haunting film.

revenant movie ending meaning

After being attacked by a bear, Hugh Glass must survive the perils of the wilderness and avenge the murder of his son. Brutal and raw, Leonardo DiCaprio's incredible performance deserves all its accolades, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is at top form, crafting an adventure that I wish more blockbusters would imitate. There's real tension in the conflicts, and the action scenes aren't jump-cutted to incomprehensible death. The second act is a little long, and I could've done without so many shots that jerk off to trees and sky. Overall, one of the best films of the year, this is a great adventure story.

As much as I really didn't care for his Oscar winning picture 'Birdman " Director Alejandro Gonzalez Innarito put together and presented A motion picture movie with a compelling combination of beautiful, brutality and compelling acting performances that I can remember in a film picture in some time. Inarritu brought long natural light, brilliant camera-tracking shots, placement that makes specific scenes take on an impressive sense of real. I was afraid that the appealing trailers may give away too much ongoing with this film, but once you see it all the way thru, there was much more meat on the bone to chew - Revenant is a western set film that is so intense on Survival and Revenge. I was getting myself prepared for a slow start and even slower character-developing as the movie progresses , but I got anything but that. It starts out brutally violent and blood gory, fact it literally " rains " with brutal graphic violence (remember how Saving Private Ryan war scene started out ?) there's an absolute impressive amount of attacks and escapes, and the motion and camera shots are always moving and enticing. I found myself constantly engaged anywhere from Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) to his son, to his comrades, to the surrounding area Much is going to talked about the Grizzly scene, which was as brutally savage and tantalizing as you can expect. And it's not a quick, clean brush with death either. It stretches and extends to you find yourself thinking ...."wow, when is this going to be over, ? " way he is making it out of this "" .... the frame set of the camera doing this Bear scene is brilliant, just when you think, this has to be it, this has to be the end and this has to be a final escape, the brutal scene goes on, .and squeamish you are shown the bloody results of such an attack. DiCaprio's performance was outstanding from humble father and husband, to fallen victim who has to visually and physically experience a heart broken tragedy , to how he miraculousy finds a way to emerge from helplessness to a fierce never say die sole survivor who is relentless in his quest to not only survive but hunt for vengenance. I can't think of a more terrific acting performance by DiCaprio, that easily outshines his Gangs of New York, The Departure and Django Unchained. Revenant has a pace that can be compared to Castaway in that it has a mesmerizing slowness but it's unique in how it still engages and appeals to you. You can't pull away from it because of the creativity in either the characters, or how the way of survival, escapes or prey-hunting is being presented to you. John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) keeps another half of it going because he is brilliantly ruthless - almost to a babbling psycho nut presence. Fitzgerald can sabotage or turn on a friend or foe at any given moment and turn. And he is corky in how he does it. And you can eventually get to a hold of why Fitz thinks and feels the way he does and takes the course of action he does to alleviate the crucial revenge hunt. And just when you thought that would be the end of Glass's tragedies and heartbreaks he is about discover another in an unsuspecting friend. And there is eventually the finale which not only includes again some graphic violence but some turning strategic combat methods as well. Interesting the plot and story write of the Revenant is pretty simple, however the combination of acting performances , action sequences and camera work and cinematography will be on a cult classic for many decades to come. From the snowy woods and mountains, to the murky trees of the forest, from the river waters and falls , to the group camp scenes, and there is also a well done music score as well. i spoke much about the bear scene, but expect to be almost in awe with the horse scene as well. Frankly speaking I have no doubt in my mind that the Revenant will be going away with the Oscar come February and we could see awards given away for best actor, best director , best cinematography, and most definitely ... Best Picture. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to give the Revenant a 9.0

See more reviews like this at First things first, steer clear of this one if you don't like either of the following; This movie is LONG. 3 hours long (including ads and credits). AND It is VERY gory. There's excessive violence, a lot of blood, and quite confronting conflict. Right, if you're still here, let's get on with the actual movie quality. The plot moves along very slowly, with bursts of tense or action sequences in between watching DiCaprio crawling through snow. It depends on your perspective, but these scenes were probably inserted by Director Iñárritu to demonstrate Hugh's recovery and to emphasise the underlying theme of survival and perseverance. Don't see it if you've got a short attention span. But, the plot, aside from its excessive length, is truly brilliant. It centres around revenge and there is constantly something posing a threat to the main character, even in those dull moments the freezing temperature causes Glass to do some quick thinking. And the relentless barrage of threats over 3 hours truly emphasises his achievement of survival, makes audiences admire his sheer determination, and makes you root for this character the whole way. Even in its conclusion, you remember everything he's endured throughout the movie and be in awe of the character. It's truly an amazing story, and what makes it even more amazing is that it's based on true events. The CGI, Special effects, and make up are all exemplary. And there's a lot of opportunities for them to shine. The most impressive example of this is the bear that mauls Glass. But, even though its minor to many, one of the biggest things that annoy me is that everyone except the good guys seem to be horrible at aiming! There's a scene with Glass on a horse riding parallel to an army of Indians and not one of them hit him! So plot convenience was my biggest irritation. The cast is nearly entirely male; consisting of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson, Lukas Haas, and Kristoffer Joner. Obviously we all know that DiCaprio is nominated for an Oscar for his performance, and he's a big chance at finally winning. If he doesn't earn it on this performance, he never will. Because he was brilliant, despite having no speech nearly the entire time. And he's stolen the spotlight, but I don't think Tom Hardy was given enough credit as he deserved. I learned over the 3 hours to despise him, and he was an integral element in the overall quality of this movie and DiCaprio's performance. Young Will Poulter wasn't too bad either as the naïve and scared young hunter. Hugh Glass was of course an incredibly interesting and well-developed character. We see flashbacks of his deceased wife and parents telling him to survive and push the limits no matter what. This same message is delivered to Glass's son, and we are reminded of it throughout the movie, but we don't need to be to see that's its obviously been deep-seeded in Glass. That and his desire for revenge allows him to persist and endure even in the closest of death experiences and when all seems lost. Even I felt hopeless for him yet he somehow gets back up again. Hardy's character Fitz doesn't seem to have enough motivation aside from some strange sense of racism to kill Glass's son and have an uncontrollable hate for Glass. That was a slight downfall. With plenty of time to kill, they included plenty of genres. They include action, adventure, biographical, drama, history, thriller, war, and western. The setting was in the 1820's American winter. We can't forget the fantastic themes that the movie was centralised around. These are themes of survival, perseverance, revenge, family, love, and murder. To conclude, I thought this was a brilliant film, and it's not just me that thinks so, with the film scoring a whopping 12 nominations including best picture, best actor in a leading role, best actor in a supporting role, cinematography (which I loved due to the panoramic tracking shots for extended periods during battle sequences), and directing. Unfortunately, it was just too long and had a few too many plot conveniences and a couple underdeveloped characters.

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The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant (2015)

A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.

  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu
  • Mark L. Smith
  • Michael Punke
  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Will Poulter
  • 1.8K User reviews
  • 659 Critic reviews
  • 76 Metascore
  • 92 wins & 193 nominations total

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  • John Fitzgerald

Will Poulter

  • Captain Andrew Henry

Forrest Goodluck

  • Stubby Bill

Duane Howard

  • (as Christopher Rosamund)

Robert Moloney

  • Dave Stomach Wound

Lukas Haas

  • All cast & crew
  • Production, box office & more at IMDbPro

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  • Trivia Due to production being behind schedule, the snow melted during the location shoot in Canada before filming was complete. With summer rapidly approaching, there was no choice but to relocate the entire production to southern Argentina, where there were similar wintry conditions.
  • Goofs When Hikuc speaks to Glass about also losing his family, his vocals do not match his lip movement, and appears to be dubbed.

Hugh Glass : As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe... keep breathing.

  • Crazy credits At the end of the end credits: "The making and authorized distribution of this film supported over 15,000 jobs and involved hundreds of thousands of work hours."
  • Connections Featured in Evening Urgant: Sergey Bezrukov/Marina Alexandrova (2015)
  • Soundtracks Arikara Elder Traditional Performed by Chesley Wilson

User reviews 1.8K

  • Jan 17, 2016

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  • January 8, 2016 (United States)
  • United States
  • Amazon Prime Video
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  • Người Về Từ Cõi Chết
  • Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina (final fight between Glass and Fitzgerald)
  • New Regency Productions
  • RatPac Entertainment
  • See more company credits at IMDbPro
  • $135,000,000 (estimated)
  • $183,637,894
  • Dec 27, 2015
  • $532,950,503

Technical specs

  • Runtime 2 hours 36 minutes
  • Dolby Digital
  • Dolby Atmos
  • Dolby Surround 7.1
  • 12-Track Digital Sound
  • IMAX 6-Track

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What Does The 'Revenant' Mean? Definition Of Leonardo DiCaprio Movie Title

Maria Vultaggio

As fans of Leonardo DiCaprio gear up to watch his new film, “The Revenant,” some might be confused about the meaning of the movie title. In fact, the name accurately depicts the theme of the movie.

The exact definition of “revenant” is as follows: “A person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.” A “revenant” comes from the French term revenir , which means, “to return.” Aside from eerily coming back from the dead, it can also mean returning from a long absence, Vulture noted.

Here's how the official description on the Internet Movie Database describes the movie: “A frontiersman named Hugh Glass on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s is on a quest for survival after being brutally mauled by a bear.” However, in the movie’s trailer, DiCaprio, as his character Hugh Glass, narrates his struggle: “I ain’t afraid to die anymore. I done it already.”

In the film, DiCaprio seeks revenge on the men who left him for dead after he was attacked by the bear. He specifically targets Tom Hardy’s character, John Fitzgerald, who killed his son.

As Oscar season approaches, a question most people want to know is if DiCaprio will finally win an Oscar. The nominations have not been revealed, but Oscar buzz has followed the seasoned actor since the trailer was released.

DiCaprio called “The Revenant” one of the "toughest films I've ever been a part of." "There for nine months in subzero temperatures in Calgary, real locations, far-off locations, we looked at this as a grand sort of artistic experiment," the actor told "CBS This Morning" Thursday. "We rehearsed meticulously all day long with (filmmakers) Chivo and Alejandro to pull of some very crucial and hard-to-do shots. And then we'd have an hour-and-a-half of natural light and it became like live theater at the end of the day, this frenetic pace and intensity that we needed to keep up with."

He added that making the movie was more like a “chapter of my life” than a “film commitment.”

“The Revenant” opens in theaters nationwide Friday.

Follow me on Twitter @mariamzzarella

© Copyright IBTimes 2023. All rights reserved.


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Revenant Season 1 Episode 12 Recap and Ending Explained

Revenant Season 1 Episode 12 Recap and Ending Explained

This article contains spoilers for the ending of Revenant Season 1 Episode 12. 

The hardest thing a streaming drama can do these days is end. For all the complaining people do about “cancel culture”, there is nothing more at risk of being canceled than your favorite show. That’s why they never end. A finale these days is basically synonymous with “cliffhanger”.

So, Revenant had its work cut out. The good news is that after weeks of getting its money’s worth out of what by all accounts has been a fairly standard demonic possession story, it had the decency to provide a helping of satisfaction with its resolution.

Revenant Season 1 Ending Explained

What does hyangi ask san-yeong’s mother to do.

Things begin with Hyangi, empowered by the retrieval of all five objects, fully taking over San-yeong’s body. Essentially in disguise she returns to her mother’s café, and tries to avoid suspicion by taking the piece of the jade headpiece Hong-sae hands her with her right hand, rather than her left (remember that previous plot point about Hyangi being left-handed.)

Hae-sang remains unconvinced, though, and so too does San-yeong’s mother. Hyangi isn’t having that, so the two of them have something of a disagreement. With San-yeong trapped in the same nebulous purgatory where Hyangi has been languishing, fighting off a faceless long-haired ghost that owes a debt, like all of these things, to Samara from The Ring , her mother has to bargain for her freedom. Hyangi makes the terms pretty clear – kill Hae-sang.  

Speaking of Hae-sang, he’s busy trying to banish Hyangi by placing the five objects with protective rope at the sites of Hyangi’s victims and burning a talisman with Hyangi’s name on it in the same spots. When San-yeong’s mother comes at him with a knife, he isn’t especially surprised. Through the information she gives him and his own observations he deduces that San-yeong has switched places with Hyangi.

What is the key to getting rid of Hyangi?

Hong-sae also knows something’s up and follows San-yeong through various shops, noting down her moves. He eventually deduces that she plans to poison San-yeong’s mother, but he’s promptly confronted by Hyangi herself, who thanks to the discovery of the fifth object no longer has the power to influence people to go after their desires. Still, the spirit is adamant that things aren’t looking good for San-yeong either way.

Hong-sae receives a call about the investigation into Hae-sang’s grandmother’s death and rushes over there to give him the news – grandma left a message before dying. Putting two and two together, and recalling the death of Mokdan, Hae-sang is able to recall that Mokdan’s preserved finger was the source of the ghost. So, Hyangi’s digit must be laying around somewhere, and discovering it could bring an end to the ghoul, but they can’t find it anywhere.

How is Hyangi defeated?

When San-yeong’s mother returns home and tells Hyangi that they’re looking for her finger, Hyangi hands her a glass of poisoned juice and tells her San-yeong will be spared if she necks it. She also messages Hong-sae with a lure, using San-yeong’s mother’s phone to claim Hyangi is trying to kill her, but it’s a blunder since Hae-sang never told her the ghost’s name.

Through possessing San-yeong, Hyangi can remember seeing where the box with the finger in it was hidden. Once it’s revealed, though, Hae-sang arrives in the nick of time to snatch it and douse it in oil, preparing to burn it. Seeing the danger, Hyangi starts to attack herself with various furnishings, attempting to kill San-yeong’s body so that she cannot be brought back from “the mirror”.

Seemingly with no choice, Hae-sang hands the box back over, but San-yeong, fighting back from the “other side”, so to speak, summons up the strength to take control and burn the box and finger both.

How does Revenant end?

After her struggles, San-yeong realizes she can fight for herself and the life she wants to live. She can care for her loved ones and take control of her future, making the most of every moment. Her worsening eye condition might be a kind of ticking clock, but she’s even prepared to tell her mother the truth about that once she has recovered from her ordeal.

Hae-sang’s grandmother’s death is ruled as a suicide, and Hae-sang himself continues to give his folklore classes, reassuring his students of his own sanity is not necessarily the sanity of a world in which ghosts keen for revenge freely roam.

And thus, with a firework display, the show ends with the bad spirits being kept away, and the good ones being born aloft on the light, visible to San-yeong and Hae-sang. Whispers of those lost along the way creep into the ears of the main characters as they reflect on what they’ve seen, who they are, and what their futures might hold.

You can stream Revenant Season 1 Episode 12 exclusively on Disney+. What did you think of the ending of Revenant Season 1? Let us know in the comments.

Additional reading:

  • Will there be a Revenant Season 2 on Disney+?

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Article by Jonathon Wilson

Jonathon is one of the co-founders of Ready Steady Cut and has been an instrumental part of the team since its inception in 2017. Jonathon has remained involved in all aspects of the site’s operation, mainly dedicated to its content output, remaining one of its primary Entertainment writers while also functioning as our dedicated Commissioning Editor, publishing over 6,500 articles.

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  1. The Revenant Ending, Explained

    revenant movie ending meaning

  2. The Revenant Ending Explained & Film Analysis

    revenant movie ending meaning

  3. The Revenant Ending, Explained

    revenant movie ending meaning

  4. The Revenant Ending, Explained

    revenant movie ending meaning

  5. The Revenant Movie Ending Explained: What Happened In The Survival

    revenant movie ending meaning

  6. The Revenant Ending & Real History Explained

    revenant movie ending meaning


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  1. The Revenant Ending, Explained

    The Revenant Plot Synopsis. The film is set in late 1823 in the seemingly limitless snowy territory of the present-day Dakotas. Glass and his half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), are part of a fur-trapping expedition led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) up the Missouri River. Danger lurks in the background, just beyond what naked ...

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    The Revenant, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, is an epic and visually stunning film that captivated audiences with its raw portrayal of survival and revenge in the 19th-century American frontier. The movie's ending left many viewers pondering its symbolic meaning and seeking a deeper understanding of the protagonist's journey.

  5. The Revenant Movie Ending Explained: What Happened In The Survival

    The Revenant Ending Explained. The movie The Revenant is the survival journey of Hugh Glass. He, along with his son and team members, used to hunt animals and sell their skin. One day when they were working, they got attacked by some tribal men. These tribesmen were killing everyone they saw because the daughter of the king was missing.

  6. "The Revenant" Ending Explained (MAJOR SPOILERS) : r/FanTheories

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  11. The Revenant (2015 film)

    The Revenant is a 2015 American Western action drama film directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu.The screenplay by Mark L. Smith and Iñárritu is based in part on Michael Punke's 2002 novel The Revenant, which describes frontiersman Hugh Glass's experiences in 1823, and which is based on the 1915 poem The Song of Hugh Glass.The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.

  12. Debate about the Revenant ending (spoilers duh) : r/movies

    Wondering what everyone else thought! You heard breath past the ending. This means he still had breath. If you still have breath you fight. He lives. This. This is the entire point of the movie-not revenge, otherwise, he would have taken Fitzgerald's life himself.

  13. The True Story Behind The Revenant

    The 2015 movie, The Revenant, directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, retells the survival story with gritty realism and gory detail against a backdrop of the West's magnificent grandeur.The movie received 12 nominations and won Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography. The film was shot in twelve locations in three countries: Canada, the ...

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    The visions of his wife "revitalised" him so to say, and kept him strong on his quest to avenge his son. After he killed Tom Cruise, he had nothing more to fight for. he could die peacefully, with his endeared wife in his mind. The third piece of evidence rssides in the anlogy between the Indian Chieftain and God.

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    The Revenant. Great film has the power to convey the unimaginable. We sit in the comfort of a darkened theater or our living room and watch protagonists suffer through physical and emotional pain that most of us can't really comprehend. Too often, these endurance tests feel manipulative or, even worse, false.

  16. The Incredible True Story Behind 'The Revenant'

    The Revenant was inspired by the story of Hugh Glass, an American frontiersman, fur trapper and explorer who operated around the Upper Missouri River in the early 19th century. Illustration of Hugh Glass and his legendary bear attack published at the time for a newspaper. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, in 1823 he was working as a guide ...

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    The Revenant Ending & Real History Explained. The film The Revenant, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, tells the story of the hard times of Americans who mined and melted down furs in the early 19th century. ... The meaning of the movie is Wild (2014) For most of the film, a girl named Cheryl. Nocturnal Animals Ending Explained: Why ...

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  20. The Revenant Explained: What's Up With the Ending?

    The Revenant is a true story of overcoming, selflessness & revenge. The Essence Of The Film "The Revenant" With DiCaprio, Plot Analysis, The Meaning Of The Ending. Country: USA Genre: Drama, Thriller, Historical, Action Western Year of production: 2015 Directed by: Alejandro G. Iñárritu Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleason, Forrest Goodluck […]

  21. What Does The 'Revenant' Mean? Definition Of Leonardo DiCaprio Movie

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  23. Revenant Season 1 Episode 12 Recap and Ending Explained

    Hong-sae receives a call about the investigation into Hae-sang's grandmother's death and rushes over there to give him the news - grandma left a message before dying. Putting two and two together, and recalling the death of Mokdan, Hae-sang is able to recall that Mokdan's preserved finger was the source of the ghost.