If you’re going to tell a story about an outdoor adventure you should keep it real. The wilds have enough mystery, drama, romance, and excitement that no author or screen writer should feel like they need to jump into the sci-fi genre to make their book or movie a hit.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened in the the Revenant, the latest Leonardo DiCaprio film. Don’t get me wrong, there weren’t any light saber duels or Klingons starships; but make no mistake about it, it was pure science fiction.
The film is loosely based on the real life experience of the bear mauled Hugh Glass; the abandoned American frontiersman who in 1823 crawled out of his shallow grave and lived to talk about it. Glass survived by eating roots, berries, and rattlesnakes, and by letting maggots chew away his septic flesh. It took him four months to get to safety that summer.
I understand, the real life story would have been far too pedestrian to put on the big screen, and some creative license is to be expected and appreciated. But this movie made the leap into pure science fiction the moment Mr. DiCaprio jumped into a river to escape a hostile tribe of Indians.
It’s science fiction not because he took to the river to escape. But because he jumped in winter.
The scene shows him being swept into a series of class five rapids, plunging over waterfalls, and eventually latching onto a log and floating down stream while draped in the skin of the bear that attacked him. He eventually drags himself ashore, builds a fire, and continues on his epic journey.
If the Millennium Falcon had swooped down and Chewbacca had thrown Glass over his shoulder and carried him to safety it would have been far more believable.
When someone goes into water under 40 degrees they have less than three minutes before they loose all dexterity. In less than 15 minutes they’re dead. This is science, not fiction.
Make no mistake about it. Cold water kills. And it kills quickly.
Just last month, Douglas Tompkins, expert outdoorsman, conservationist, and the co-founder of North Face clothing capsized his kayak in the wilds of Chili. And in spite of being rescued by a patrol boat, and flown by helicopter to a hospital, he died of hypothermia.
I suppose my agitation over this kind of sci-fi embedded in an otherwise historically plausible story is that it might create a false sense of confidence or casual attitude in someone who ventures into the outdoors in winter.
If you’re on or near the water in cold weather don’t screw around. Be safe. Don’t go on ice that’s sketchy, and don’t think you and your buddies can just casually make your way to shore if you capsize your canoe, or fall in with your waders on.
Cold weather is not a reason to stop hunting, fishing, camping, and doing all the outdoor stuff we love to do. It’s just a reason to be even more careful when our pursuits take us on the water. Also, the last time I checked a grizzly bear skin is not a certified personal flotation device.
But hey, other than being science fiction, I actually kind of liked this movie. The cinematography was amazing, the acting was fantastic, the bad guys speak French, and the gritty, grisly, gristly, grizzly realism was really working for me. From all accounts the American frontier was a brutal place, and this movie really seems to have captured some of that.
There’s also is a bit of irony in all this. Remember that it was Mr. DiCaprio who waded around the icy waters of the sinking Titanic, and was then able to have a coherent last chat with his shivering lover all while bobbing in the north Atlantic. He certainly seems to have a flair for depicting hypothermic immune lead men.
Editor’s Note: Pastor, Writer and All Around Great Guy Jeff Ell will be going on sabbatical for a few months. Look for him to return in late Spring. If it takes him exactly four months we will all know where he’s been . . .
Jeff Ell is pretty good at catching, killing, picking, and growing things to eat. He regularly finds bemusement in the outdoors and enjoys telling his stories to anyone who will listen. Jeff’s the author of Ruth Uncensored, blogs at pastorjeffell.com. and can be contacted via Facebook or smoke signal.