Critically acclaimed survivor flick, The Revenant, starring DiCaprio and directed by Alejandro Iñárritu premiered last week worldwide and has lived up to the proposed award season hype this film as been attracting. With little to expect from the short trailers and some bogus articles about bear rape, The Revenant posed as the first most anticipated movie of 2016, and what a brilliant start. With no bear rape in sight (sorry?) the story follows famed explorer Hugh Glass and his violent encounter with a grizzly, which left him near dead in the cold Alaskan winter. Left to die by his so-called comrades, Glass treks 200 miles to find his camp and seek his revenge.
The title, ‘Revenant’ means a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead; a true depiction of the film’s plot in one word. Hugh Glass was a real explorer, who did really get mauled by a bear, left behind and then pulled it together to travel home. Such a story obviously caught the eye of Iñárritu, a director who indulges in creating epic journey stories. Though the film adds it’s own twists and sub plots to the legendary tale and placing a heavy amount of importance on it’s indigenous characters for the stories development. In the film, Glass has a son from the Arikara tribe named Hawk. It’s also the year 1823 so Native American and settler tension is high. We are introduced to different tribes such as the Pawnee and Powaqa. Using these influences really allows insight into the true wilderness of the uncharted Americas. And then there is Tom Hardy and Will Poulter, who portray the men that left Glass behind, trappers and hunters who are greedy for ‘pelts’ and money. Here is where we truly follow Glass on a revenge journey of determination and will power.
The 2h 36 minutes movie moves at a steady pace, never feeling slow and always exciting. There is something exhilarating about watching a true test of survival on screen, and the Revenant does not disappoint here. It’s raw gritty nature of filming and shooting brings you into Glass’ reality, pulling you into the sickening moments that he endures and the lengths he takes. This is an obvious testament to DiCaprio’s acting chops. Arguably the best performance of his career, DiCaprio’s decisions to eat real livers and sleep in real carcasses really elevate this film’s credibility. Something can be said for the breathtaking scenery too, which is a character in itself in this film, portraying mother nature’s true angels and demons, Iñárritu used the natural lighting in a way that made the film tonally blue and dark but not discouraging.
Iñárritu’s filming style is instantly recognisable but not embraced by all. Some of the opening sequences were dizzying which can often deter from the importance of the moment and loose the viewer’s sense of concentration and focus. The long drawn out shots and smooth sequences are stunning and worked for Birdman, but maybe not so for this film. I didn’t think it added any more tension or excitement then it would have if it was cut shorter or quicker, but this can often come down to personal preference of viewing and well, I’m nit picking here.
Performances never faltered, and the story line stayed strong. With a strong foundation for a film there comes success, and I feel that The Revenant really set out with it’s particular themes and didn’t wary or drift. That is where it’s true achievement shines in that it is one cohesive piece of art that will hopefully not be forgotten throughout this years parade of film releases.