Film Review: The Revenant

The Revenant is another master class in filmmaking from Alejandro Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki, as they take us on an engrossing experience of survival; led by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Set in the 1820’s, we follow a group of pelt hunters, led by tracker Hugh Glass, who are overrun by a tribe of Native American’s searching for their kidnapped princess. With the survivors on the run, tragedy strikes the group and Glass is left for dead, with a streak of revenge running through his veins. From there we bounce back between Glass and the other hunters as they struggle to get back to their home base.

The film is a survival tale first and foremost, revenge tale beyond that, as Iñárritu runs DiCaprio through the ringer. The shit that Glass goes through in this film is on the verge of comical. I did have to laugh at what this guy was going through, but never because of filmmaking execution, more just disbelief at this guy’s suffering. DiCaprio is giving it his all here though, and you believe the hell and pain Glass goes through as he tries to survive.

The revenge piece is crystal clear, but the hero/villain dynamic is also a lot more cut and dry than I anticipated. I mean, I guess revenge tales are supposed to be pretty clearly defined, but Glass is such a heroic presence that it almost seems like overkill. I imagined far more grey area in individuals roaming the western frontier, but the black hat couldn’t be more firmly on the film’s villain while everyone else is pretty much as good a person as they could be in this world.

I’ve been sort of nitpicking so far, but these don’t deter from the overall experience. The Revenant is full of a number of exhilarating set pieces, often performed in single takes, and delivering some of the most brutal violence you will see this year. The film has a lengthy runtime, but you will never find yourself disengaged from the film as Iñárritu keeps the action coming. In between the action Iñárritu has Lubezki shooting the most gorgeous vistas you will see all year, but everything else is just as gorgeous. Shot entirely with natural lighting, Lubezki’s cinematography might be his best yet and is worth the price of admission alone. Lubezki and Iñárritu make gorgeous motion pictures and The Revenant is probably the best looking film this year.

I’ve already touched on DiCaprio giving it his all, but Tom Hardy is probably the best thing in the movie. Hardy is always great and you miss him every time he isn’t on the screen. He just commands every scene he is in and he goes a long way at selling his character’s villainy at a primal level. He’s also about the only person that seems to be having fun and brings some much-needed levity to an intense film. Domhnall Gleeson plays the captain of the expedition, and while I wish he didn’t stay in his stereotypical mode for the majority of the part, he is great when he gets firey. DiCaprio is the one who is getting all of the attention though, and while he is very good I’ve liked him much more in other things. He sells the bond with his kid and all of the physicality stuff he goes through, but I prefer a more fiery DiCaprio to this more subdued and battered performance. Will Poulter also deserves a shout out for hanging with some of the best actors working today, wish we got a bit more of him too.

The Revenant is not a fun film, but it is an engrossing experience from start to finish. Iñárritu and Lubezki have made a visually stunning film, while also delivering a compelling adventure that keeps the set pieces coming. Sure to be an intense experience for most viewers, The Revenant is a film that should be seen on the big screen, if you think you are up for that experience, don’t miss out on this film.

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