Every once in a while, a movie will appear that will grab your attention and never let go – keep you spell-bound. The Revenant is just such a movie, offering a creative take on the classic revenge and survival genres. Even more so than Birdman, The Revenant is a director’s movie – a showcase for a filmmaker’s vision and innovation – and will stir something within true fans of cinematic art.
Inspired by true events, THE REVENANT is an immersive and visceral cinematic experience capturing one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption. THE REVENANT is directed and co-written by renowned filmmaker, Academy Award® winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman, Babel). ~ 20th Century Fox
The Revenant is is a superb blood-and-guts Western, positively overflowing with shock and sweeping visual scope. Iñárritu’s filmmaking style pushes the envelope of how we’ve seen films shot. He makes full use of the wide screen – showing vast landscapes, some harsh and devoid of any comfort, some lush and bountiful. These aren’t just lovely nature shots that you’d like to hang above your mantle, either. These beautiful moments are littered with silent flaming arrows streaking across the perfectly framed shots, or scenes of total destruction – always with harsh, realistic elements that will shake you to your core. His use of the camera movement creates long, cut-less shots that give an air of realism to the already grisly action. The CGI mixes fairly seamlessly with the live action, only occasionally pulling you from the moment. On that note, there are many harrowing scenes that make you gasp and put your hands over your face, leaving you wondering, “How’d they do that?” The bear attack is one such event – and no, there is no evidence of rape in the scene – that left me completely beside myself. You think you know what a bear attack involves, but until you see it in such vicious realism you have no idea of the severity and speed you go from hunting for lunch and becoming lunch. This is one early event – one of many. Glass has terrible luck in this fictionalized telling of his true-life story, and it’s completely engrossing.
While the overall story is about revenge and survival, it is the most well done take on both genres I have seen recently. It is laced with a sub-plot that ties in at the end, and is spattered with spirituality. Iñárritu does an excellent job showing the shades of grey between the protagonist and antagonist positions, giving another layer of realism to the plot. When in life is anything completely black and white?
DiCaprio is incredibly believable, pulling out the stops as usual. Some will say this is his vehicle to another award this upcoming season, and I have a feeling he will get it. However, since his dialog was so slim, I think they would benefit having a separate award for putting up with abuse for a role. Apparently, The Revenant was incredibly taxing on him. Tom Hardy shines as a calculating scumbag who is incredibly tenacious. He plays his role to a tee – using his expressive eyes to drive the dialog home, to ensure you understand his meaning whether or not you can understand his marble-mouthed southern American accent.
While The Revenant will inevitably be compared to this year’s other long, gritty Western The Hateful Eight, it is very different. It lacks Tarantino’s tongue-in-cheek approach and thrives because of it. Iñárritu plays it harsh, simple, and incredibly deadly. At 2 hours and 36 minutes, it is a long film, so picking a comfortable theater will be to your benefit. There are those who will see it as a cold, exhausting film about watching a man struggle through the wilderness for two plus hours, but it is so much more than that. For those who enjoy beautifully contrasting shots and plots, powerful performances, and heavy cinematic art, this will be one of your favorite films of the year. The Revenant is visceral, beautiful, terrifying, and completely satisfying.
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