The Revenant (2016)
Release Date: January 8, 2016
Cast: Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Arthur Redcloud, Paul Anderson, Kristoffer Joner
Director: Alejandro González
Studio: New Regency Pictures
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
Genre(s): Adventure, Survival, Drama, Thriller
Review Spoilers: Low
With sparse dialogue and dramatic scenes of a cold, brutal environment, The Revenant is perfect in showcasing all the pain Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Hugh Glass, goes through. There is no ignoring this movie’s depiction of the wild and unforgiving frontier that people of the early 19th century dealt with. The mountains, trees, rivers, snow, and wind are just as much a character as everyone else.
As the audience, you’re taken aback at the harsh starkness of the land. You feel the biting, bitter cold and hear the howl of the wind. The film is able to capture both the raw cruelty of nature as well as its majesty.The landscape is breathtaking and the cinematography is artful. Surely, there’s an Oscar winner here for cinematography. Now is this the Oscar winning performance we all so dearly wish Leo will get? There are some mixed reviews, but we’ll leave you to be the judge when you immerse yourself in the unique experience.
The beating heart of this movie is revenge. Unrelenting revenge. Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is buried alive and claws himself out of his own grave before battling the winter of the Northern part of the Louisiana Purchase. This is all after a bloody and viscerally painful bear attack, and after witnessing the murder of his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), by a trapper in his group, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).
The bear attack itself bears (no pun intended) the kind of intensity that makes you feel uncomfortable to watch, but you simply can’t look away. There is no shyness about the gore and it’s nothing close to being B-grade cheap horror. It adds depth to the scene and severity to nature. Glass is nearly mauled to death and buried alive and frozen in winter, but despite that, he seems to be powered by revenge alone as he crawls from his grave to exact punishment on his traitor. Nature kicks ass, but this man kicks it right back.
Domhnall Gleeson, who plays Andrew Henry, turns in another strong performance for his own portfolio. He plays the captain of the group of hunters and trappers being guided by Glass. Another refreshing performance was by Arthur Redcloud who plays Hikuc, a Native American that Glass befriends while in the wilderness. Their bromance is strong and a happy highlight within the film, offering some buoyancy to a cheerless story…it’s as happy as the film gets.
The supporting cast is fantastic. Their sallow faces and haggard expressions are not just tricks of theater paint and maquillage. Crew members called the set “a living hell.” The dirt, blood, grit, and wetness are very, very real. Dirctor Alejandro Gonzalez’s quest for realism paid off, it immerses you completely by being mesmerizingly grotesque with a haunting and eery soundtrack to boot. When paired with the Oscar winning cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, there’s no question that the visual palette for the film has been set perfectly, and Lubezki could be primed to win his third Oscar in a row from this film.
The two things I did not like about the movie was the relationship between Glass and his son and wife. It is not explored enough in the 156 minute long movie to draw a deeper sympathy from the audience. Their bond doesn’t feel strong, and we are simply left to believe that it is. It makes the revenge that Glass so desperately seeks somewhat…unfulfilling.
Final Thought: By the end of this movie you will have experienced the raw wilderness through the snow, cold, blood, and screams. This movie is first and foremost a visual experience that needs to be seen in IMAX; if you want the full experience then do yourself a favor and REALLY immerse yourself. The landscapes are beautiful, the acting is top tier, and the story is brutal and straightforward.