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If your goal is gathering beaver pelts in the 19th century, you could hardly have a better guide than frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio). A man of few words but formidable skills, Glass knows his way around the Rockies. But even he has his limitations.

Glass can do nothing to prevent a confrontation with a Pawnee tribe whose arrows, more often than not, find their targets. In short order, the ground beneath the hunters and fur trappers is a horrifying mix of mud and blood. But Glass is less concerned with their survival than with the safety of his son, a half-Pawnee teen named Hawk (Forrest Goodluck).

In such a harsh environment, there’s no shortage of potential enemies. One of them is a bear that Glass has the bad luck to stumble across. The other is trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who’s purely out for himself and takes a deep dislike to Glass and his son.

Glass’s encounter with the bear leads to game-changing circumstances that ultimately provide the frontiersman with justification to hunt Fitzgerald down. Only one of the two men is likely to come away alive. And considering his background and motivation, most people would bet on Glass.

Based in part on a novel by Michael Punke, “The Revenant” may be too offbeat for some moviegoers. But those who welcome the challenge of something different will be rewarded with a film that’s thrillingly visceral and thoroughly mesmerizing.

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“Birdman”) delivers a tale of the American frontier that’s boundlessly ambitious. Working from a screenplay that he co-wrote with Mark L. Smith, Inarritu drops us into a cold, brutal, unforgiving reality — and makes the experience exhilarating.

As Glass, DiCaprio is determination personified — and continents away from “Titanic.” It’s an uncompromising performance that’s virtually guaranteed to snag an Oscar nomination.

Boldly original, “The Revenant” puts everything else playing at the multiplexes in the shade.

What “The Revenant” Four stars out of four Run time 2:36 • Rating R • Content Violence, sexual assault, language, nudity

Calvin Wilson is theater critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.