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'The Revenant': a movie review

The Revenant is the latest offering from Academy Award winning director Alejandro G. Inarritu and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass and Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald. The film is an epic story of survival and determination that is, at times, both hard to watch and hard to look away from. The Revenant was inspired by true events and based on Michael Punke's 2002 novel by the same name. However, Inarritu's adaption adheres fairly loosely to its historical sources and is a more emotionally engaging and moving film as a result. The addition of Glass's half-Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) is what truly sets the film's story apart from its previous iterations as it gives the film's hero a sense of depth and purpose that would otherwise be lacking.

The Revenant opens with Glass and Hawk hunting a moose as part of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, who have hired Glass to be their guide through the unforgiving wilderness. However, the group is beset shortly thereafter by a group of Arikara warriors who mistakenly believe that the trappers have taken their chief's daughter captive. Their pursuit of the survivors plays an integral role in the events that follow.

After escaping the ambush, Glass leads the survivors on a rather circuitous route back to their fort in an effort to evade the Arikara. However, while scouting ahead Glass is viciously attacked by a bear, with every strike of her claws on full display in what is one of the more remarkably filmed yet brutally disturbing parts of the film. Glass eventually kills the giant grizzly but is all but dead by the time the rest of the group finds him.

After painstakingly carrying Glass' tattered body for several days, the company reaches a point where they can no longer tend to his wounds and make the necessary progress to stay ahead of the pursuing tribe. Their captain, Andrew Henry (Domhall Gleeson), offers a reward for those who will stay behind with Glass until he dies so that he can be given a proper burial. Hawk and another young man named Bridger (Will Poulter) volunteer while Fitzgerald agrees to do the same after being promised their shares of the journey's profits.

However, it quickly becomes evident that Fitzgerald has little patience for Glass's refusal to die and so he decides to help him along that seemingly inevitable path. Hawk understandably doesn't share Fitzgerald's view of the situation and, while attempting to defend his father, is killed by the angry trapper while Glass looks on, helpless to do anything about it. Shortly thereafter, Fitzgerald convinces Bridger, who was absent for Hawk's killing, that the Arikara are about to attack and that it is necessary to abandon Glass in order to save themselves. Bridger reluctantly agrees and Fitzgerald dumps Glass's still breathing body in a shallow grave before heading out.
As you might expect, none of this sits well with Glass who wills himself to painstakingly endure his injuries and circumstances in order to avenge his son's death. As IGN's Jim Vejvoda describes, from this point forward "Hugh Glass [is] basically a real-life Chuck Norris joke – only no one thought it was very funny when he showed up half-dead and looking to kick some serious [butt]."

Despite Glass's gruesome experiences, his ability to endure for the sake of a singular goal is quite inspiring. And while Scripture is clear that revenge is not exactly the most righteous of motivations (Romans 12:19, Deuteronomy 32:35), the power of purpose is worth exploring a bit further.

One of the dangers in our Christian walk is that we go through life without a clear sense of God's calling or purpose for our days. Part of the problem is that we often make the pursuit of that purpose far more complicated than it needs to be. You see, every believer actually shares a singular purpose in this life: to glorify God by sharing the good news of Christ with those around us (Matthew 28:18-20). The thing that distinguishes our particular purpose from that of other believers is the manner in which we are called to accomplish it.

When we understand that our individual calling is intended to fall under the umbrella of that common purpose, it becomes easier to understand and discern. As Janet Denison once wrote, you calling is essentially "the service God has gifted you to perform, that has eternal value…When last did you see God at work in your life, and the end result was people encountered God in their own lives? Chances are, the answer to that question is your Kingdom purpose."

Now, it is important to remember that understanding your place in God's larger purpose does not mean that living it out will be simple. Fortunately, our God stands ready to help you do just that (Philippians 4:11-13). The problem many believers face is that we are unwilling to live in such a way that we can accept that help. As a result, we make it far more difficult to live out our calling than it should be.  

Viktor Frankl once wrote that "A man who has a why to live for, can bear almost any how." God has given you the "why" and wants to help you bear the "how." Will you let him?

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