Genre: Historical Action
Running Time: 100 min
MPAA Rating: R
Directed: Antonia Bird
Screenplay: Ted Griffin
Guy Pearce: Capt. John Boyd
Robert Carlyle: Col. Ives/F.W. Colqhoun
Jeremy Davies: Pvt. Toffler
Jeffrey Jones: Col. Hart
John Spencer: Gen. Slauso
Stephen Spinella: Maj. Knox
Neal McDonough: Pvt. Reich
David Arquette: Pvt. Cleaves
"He that fights with monsters should look to himself that he does not become a monster."
- Friedrich Nietzsche
This is a simply fabulous movie. I don't know how it got by me until now. It has been generally overlooked by critics and shunned by moviegoers who dismiss it as too gory and don't want to listen to David Arquette any longer than they have to. On that count, you needn't worry, Arquette says next to nothing throughout the movie. But, really... who wants to see a movie about cannibalism, anyway? Where can you really go with it? Well, Ravenous does just that: takes it and goes with it. Cannibalism is just a starting point which the movie uses as a platform for its well-crafted plot, gruesome action and artistic message.
"It's lonely being a cannibal. You don't get that many friends."
While all the performances are quite understated, they are delivered with a captivating and almost startling intensity. Guy Pearce shows the range of his acting ability yet again as he portrays a faint-hearted, virginal army captain exiled to a post high in the harsh wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. This role is a marked contrast to his calmly confident Ed Exley in L.A. Confidential and his fiery Fernand Mondego in The Count of Monte Cristo. Robert Carlyle evinces the devious, virile and brutal nature of his role superbly and, for a change, his thick accent is toned down to the point where you can actually understand at least half the things he says. The spectrum which Carlyle's ability allows him to cover is truly astonishing. His various roles seem so dissimilar that it is easy to forget that you're watching the same man. His character in Ravenous bears no similarity to those he portrays in The World Is Not Enough, Trainspotting or The Full Monty, yet he is completely believeable and absorbing as each. The remaining cast supports these two leading men admirably, particularly Jeffrey Jones and John Spencer.
The movie opens at a ceremony honoring Capt. John Boyd (Pearce) for his role in capturing a Mexican base during the Mexican-American War in 1847. However, Boyd and his commanding officer, Gen. Slauso (Spencer), know full well that he does not deserve the medal he was granted. Freezing up in the midst of the battle, Boyd played dead until he was brought behind enemy lines and was able to achieve a quick and unexpected reprisal. His cowardice saved him and won the battle for the Americans, much to his shame and dismay. Packing only a rifle, the clothes on his back and a medal that served as nothing more than a reminder of his failure, he is sent west to Fort Spencer, high in the Sierra Nevada, cold, isolated and run by the dregs of the American Army. As Boyd begins to settle into the drudgery of life in the dreary, backward encampment, the Fort receives a visitor (Carlyle) who tells a frightful story. He and his fellow travelers became lost in the mountains with dwindling supplies and a ferocious hunger. When the first of their number succumbed to malnutrition, the others bowed to the inevitable and ate him, but one man could only last for so long. When their hunger stirred once more, there also awoke in them a ravening bloodlust, and neither could be quieted. The group turned on its own and the visitor barely managed to escape with his skin. A small group set out from the fort the next day to search for survivors, but they found more than they expected.
"If you die first, I'm definitely going to eat you. But the question is: if I die first, what are you gonna do?"
There are numerous fascinating elements introduced into this movie that allow it to rise above its basic plot. It is thematically and symbolically rich and is even quite funny. The native american legend of the wendigo is skillfully woven into the movie's plot. The supernatural elements of the movie do not rely on an overly complicated premise, nor even an overly simple one. One is not expected to believe that a spirit that hungers for human flesh wanders the world looking for hosts or anything so implausible. As the ghastly events unfold, everything simply seems quite believeable. Various characters are consumed by their respective hungers: alcohol, drugs, religion and human flesh. Boyd alone seems able to resist, but for how long and, perhaps more importantly, why? His strength of character was in short supply to begin with. Why should he resist temptations when they arise? What is he fighting for? The struggles going on in the world around him are echoed in his own mind and it is hard to be sure which side he's fighting for. Ravenous cleverly plays upon the attitude of settlers in the American West and their notion of manifest destiny. At one point, Col. Ives even refers to this specifically. He sees the cannibal way of life as inevitable and those who would impede him are standing in the way of progress. He is the quintessential Californian of the day. Religious and sexual symbolism are also used regularly and to great effect.
Ravenous was filmed in Mexico and Eastern Europe in some truly beautiful locales. The gorgeous scenery contrasts starkly with the copious and realistic gore, crimson blood on pristine snow. The brutally graphic action sequences are skillfully filmed, particularly the final scene. Also quite impressive is the movie's music, which departs markedly from the traditional Hollywood overdependence on strings. The movie's soundtrack was entirely composed and performed by Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman. The most interesting music from the film is played on a banjo and an accordion, a strange but effective combination. Oh, and believe it or not, both the director, Antonia Bird, and Guy Pearce are vegetarians.
Internet Movie Database - imdb.com
Ravenous: A Fan Site - angelfire.com/movies/ravenouslist/
Welcome To Fort Spencer - members.aol.com/Alpheratz9/ravenous.html
Lust For Life - wweek.com/html/screenb032499.html