The Revenant is an epic drama about survival, revenge & oddly enough finding peace. Loosely based on frontiersman Hugh Glass’ book by the same name, The Revenant follows Glass as he survives a brutal bear attack, is left for dead & fights to stay alive and seek revenge on those who he feels have done him so wrong. It’s difficult to discuss The Revenant without mentioning the natural beauty captured in the film in the surroundings of the characters. With that being said, the same element that is providing such awe-inspiring visuals also serves as an acute reminder that nature can be a treacherous and unforgiving adversary, as both our protagonist & antagonist alike know all too well. The unfiltered natural beauty (more on that below) of this film is only matched by the ultra-realism of the intense action & survival sequences that are as intimate & grotesque as they are necessary to tell the tale.
The lead actor in The Revenant is Leonardo DiCaprio who is at the height of his craft and it shows on screen. Much like when Tom Hanks played Chuck Noland in Cast Away, there is a long period of time in the film where DiCaprio isn’t speaking but is still not allowing you to forget the rage which drives him towards his ultimate goal of revenge. Who knew that a person unable to speak and strapped to a makeshift stretcher could display so much emotion with just noises and facial expressions. All in all, DiCaprio’s performance in The Revenant may go down as one of his best roles ever. The ‘bad guy’ (personally I consider ‘nature’ the bad guy) in the film is John Fitzgerald played masterfully by Tom Hardy who is fantastic in every role he takes at this point. The key to a good antagonist is the ability to relate to his cause and Fitzgerald’s cause is a selfish but realistic one in saving his own skin & the skins of the animals he’s killed so he’ll have some money in his pocket and to not be frozen to death on top of a mountain or killed by Indians. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp after the frenzied first twenty minutes of the film. These two characters don’t have many scenes together but those few scenes are full of intensity and anticipation for what will come next because Fitzgerald’s character is so intensely volatile. On a side note, Will Poulter had a larger role in the film than I anticipated and did an excellent job to not get overpowered by the bombastic performance of Hardy and the quiet intensity of DiCaprio. He’s been in a few fairly popular movies in recent years but I thought he more than held his own in this one.
It usually takes a director decades to find a style all his or her own but Alejandro G. Inarritu has managed to do so with just a handful under his belt. Just a year after winning the Academy Award for Best Director for Birdman, Inarritu has hit another grand slam with The Revenant. Alejandro’s style is identifiable by the long sweeping shots with very few cuts keeping you locked onto the characters, action & scene almost like hypnosis which, according to reports, causes friction between the director and actors because he prefers long takes instead of many short ones. I was anxious to see how this epic frontier film with such high profile actors would work with his style but he chose the perfect two method actors for The Revenant because DiCaprio & Hardy didn’t just play characters in the film, they became those two people for this movie. Alejandro G. Inarritu milked every ounce of greatness from them both to create a powerful and equally gorgeous film and he is quickly becoming the hot directorial name in Hollywood for all of the right reasons.
Let’s go ahead and get this out in the open: no true survival movie is butterflies and rainbows and The Revenant is no walk in the park. The characters in this film are tough men who have lived tougher lives, are trying to navigate through some of the world’s most difficult terrains while having to constantly deal with Native Americans trying to kill them. There is very coarse language, tough decisions and the now infamous bear attack scene may be one of the most brutal scenes that I’ve ever seen in a movie. Every survival movie eventually teaches us a very basic lesson: that a human being will go to great lengths and sometimes very low lows just to survive and both of those scenarios are portrayed in The Revenant in all of their realistic glory. The visceral action and survival scenes in the film are only matched by the unmatched beauty of the landscape around them. The Revenant was filmed completely in natural light and it shows in many scenes where you just look at the screen and marvel at some of the shots that would even make National Geographic jealous. The Revenant is a long one also, with a runtime of just over two and a half hours but definitely worth watching if you want to see two great actors turn in some of their top performances filmed in an unorthodox style that may soon be a trend in Hollywood.
I give The Revenant five Popcorn Buckets and highly suggest you check it out.