Alejandro G. Iñárritu's The Revenant is cold, brutal and relentless, yet a beautifully-crafted film with one of the year's best performances. Leonardo DiCaprio has yet again earned his Oscar.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu‘s The Revenant is one of 2015’s best films, capturing the harsh and brutal nature of the film’s revenge story through the contrast of some of the most beautiful images ever to grace the screen. The Revenant is Iñárritu’s attempt at a spiritual journey of revenge and redemption through the use of rich visuals, unique sounds and innovative craftsmanship that rarely falters.
Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an experienced tracker tasked with navigating a group of men back to safety in the cold and harsh setting of the wild American country land in the 1820s. He’s teamed up with General Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) and a shady trapper named John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).
The only real care Glass has for this world rests in the heart of his Native son that he protects from those around him.
A bear mauling leaves Glass immobile and with little life left in his breath, yet Henry, Glass’ boy and a group of men do their best to help carry Glass home to safe settlement, while Fitzgerald complains and often-times suggests leaving Glass to die alone in the bitter cold.
Henry and most of the crew set to return home quickly, while Fitzgerald and another (along with Glass’ boy) offer to stay back and care for Glass until he passes, which is when the cowardly Fitzgerald takes actions and murders Glass’ boy and leaves him to rot.
Now, Glass is overtaken by revenge and the need to exact indescribable amount of pain on Fitzgerald, while also fighting off the harsh natural elements of the land and others that occupy it.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu‘s The Revenant is both an ugly and beautiful film, contrasting the film’s hash elements of survival and brutality of revenge with a backdrop of an earlier time of endless snowy land and mountains. The way Iñárritu counteracts the film’s cold and heartless approach with such remarkable imagery is impressive and surely a feat that most directors couldn’t have accomplished with such effectiveness.
Director Terrence Malick often-times gets praised for his spiritual storytelling methods that blend such beauty and peace together in a way that feels like a translucent dream. Iñárritu manages to capture that same powerful feeling through the use of grand visuals and experimental camera work. He too infuses a spiritual-like journey into the film’s key revenge, but instead of comforting us with love and grace — he gives us relentless brutality.
The Revenant is a tale of revenge and redemption, but it’s more importantly a film about humanity and what the difference between being a human and an animal really is. Hugh Glass may kill and kill often, but he does it with a sense of compassion and understanding of survival. He’s no sadistic murder that takes joy in the taking of another life, but he understands that there is always going to be death in his life and sometimes it’s kill or be killed.
While Fitzgerald contrasts those believes as a man with no moral backbone. He’s someone that will kill for the fun of it or if he’ll gain something as little as the fur off of your back because he’s not warm enough. It’s not exactly survival instincts as much as it is stubborn dominance.
Iñárritu explores that narrative through many long and sometimes completely word-less takes. He’s all about mood and tone and The Revenant is full of both.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives yet another aggressive and yet soft performance, really bringing out the life of Hugh Glass with dimension and compassion. I wouldn’t exactly call it his best or most deserving of an Oscar role, but this is definitely one of those roles that he gives it his all. Given the current climate of Best Actor contenders I’d say Leo has a fair change of taking home the gold, which makes this performance sort of complexing, because while it’s great and worthy of the gold I would much rather have seen him take it home for his work in The Wolf of Wall Street or even The Departed. He’s exceptional here, but not memorable.
Tom Hardy gives Fitzgerald a certain amount of cowardly malice that we haven’t quite seen from him before. It’s great seeing him flex his acting muscles, especially after he wowed us in Mad Max: Fury Road earlier this year in a performance that’s definitely more subtle and collected when compared to Fitzgerald’s generally ignorant and selfish nature.
The real winners of The Revenant are director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and his DP Emmanuel Lubezki. Together, the two have managed to make The Revenant one of the most visceral movie-going experiences of the year and something that would actually benefit from a large IMAX viewing. The Revenant is an absolutely beautiful-looking film that benefits highly from their collaboration and imagination.
There’s an extended battle sequence that all of the trailers have focused on that when viewed in the complete structure of the film will push you back into your seat in awe of the craftsmanship, despite seeing almost the entire sequence through spots and trailers.
Earlier I mentioned Terrence Malick and how The Revenant feels like an evil brother to one of his films. It’s also worth noting that Iñárritu manages to keep a hold onto his a film a bit stronger than Malick, never distancing himself and veering off into complete hypnotic madness.
I’m not saying that Malick’s films always meander, but sometimes his experimental structuring cripples his film’s eventual impact and original meaning, while Iñárritu manages to keep The Revenant on course through the entire film, despite it running past the two and a half hour mark.
Everything he shoots has a purpose and thinking back had me hard-pressed to find an entire scene or sequence that could be removed without damaging the film. There are brief moments that might test the patience of casual movie-goers, but I promise if you fully commit to the film it will deliver.
The Revenant is Alejandro G. Iñárritu‘s most accessible film to date and also his most complete. Finally, he’s managed to blend together his impeccable filmmaking skills with his sometimes unusual storytelling methods to create a revenge film that manages to carry some thematic weight.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy‘s performances give the film balanced characters that are surely going to get some Oscar love, while Iñárritu and his entire crew have created one of the most beautiful-looking, yet brutal and raw revenge films that I’ve ever seen. It’s cold and sometimes completely heartless, yet The Revenant finds its redeeming light through its exploration of humanity and redemption.