Who needs winter weather when you have The Revenant? In 1823, the wilderness is very much an uncharted place, harsh and unforgiving. Explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and fellow hunting party members John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) are on an expedition for fur. After being attacked by some vengeful Native Americans, the expedition turns to one of pure survival.
If that weren’t enough, Glass is absolutely mauled by a wilderbeast known as a grizzly bear, and left to perish out in the cold by his group. Down, but not out, he sets out to brave the relentless elements and find vengeance on those responsible for their selfishness.
Directed by Birdman auteur Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant is the magnificent result of a director, in addition to the entire cast, pushing his limits as to what can be shown—and how it can be shown—on film. When people talk about filmmaking being dead, this would be a film to counter that argument. What Iñárritu, along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, have done here is capture some of the best cinematography in cinema history. This is an amazing production.
There are few better than Iñárritu at this point in time. He, not DiCaprio, is the star of the movie. The way he sets up a shot, holds it, and keeps it moving is the stuff of legend, aided by the decision to shoot with natural lighting. Surely this had to be difficult for everyone involved, but it pays off with everything competing together in an extremely visceral way. Many times, yours truly wondered just how he was able to get a specific shot, or who he had to sell his soul to in order to pull off such amazing wizardry. He even has nice little visual touches such as staining the lens with blood for specific encounters that break the barrier between camera and subject. It all equates to an brutally unflinching view.
I understand Tom over at Digital Shortbread is unwilling to jinx Mr. DiCaprio, but I’ll take the blame if his name isn’t called after “And the Oscar goes to…” in the Best Actor award. In a semi-weak field (compared to the Best Supporting Actor category), Leo is by far and away the favorite in the clubhouse. Those who maintain that his recent roles like Gatsby, Belfort, and Cobb aren’t all that stretching can’t use that argument this go-round. His commitment to the Glass character is something that has to be seen, because it feels so real. He’s just as convincing in another language as he is in English. The audience feels every fall, attack, and step taken by Hugh on his arduous journey.
It’s fair to say that Hardy wasn’t the star in Mad Max: Fury Road compared to Charlize Theron, despite playing the titular character. It’s wrong to say that he is the acting star here, because he isn’t. However, he does come close to stealing DiCaprio’s thunder at certain times. Hardy’s role is clear, and his character does everything in his power to make life miserable for Hugh in one fell swoop. Talk about a guy getting under your skin and that character is Hardy’s Fitzgerald. It’s hard to definitively see a nomination only because that field is so tightly packed, but he’d be deserving of one. Work turned in by Domhall Gleeson (a part of many great films in 2015!) and Will Poulter is not to be forgotten, either.
Earlier in this piece, it was written that The Revenant is an amazing production. Those words were chosen carefully. This is a great movie inspired by real events, but on the story front, I did expect to be blown away. Unfortunately, the script is a little bit of a letdown. Seeing Glass’ refusal to give up is riveting, but seeing predicament after predicament that has to be overcome can get a little old, akin to Southpaw. The survival aspect works tremendously. It’s just that at times, thematically, it appears to be going for more profoundness which hampers the storytelling. Minor flaw, as eventually, one realizes that The Revenant isn’t telling a story. The film itself is the story.
What is the title of a film that has a reported $135 million budget, and still feels like a independent passion project? That would be The Revenant, a revelation for anyone who appreciates push-it-to-the-absolute-limit filmmaking and acting.
Photo credits go to aceshowbiz.com, and giphy.com.
Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson