Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Dohmnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, and Forrest Goodluck
One of the great things about New Year’s Eve celebrations is letting the atmosphere take hold of you. I find enjoyment in the few minutes before the clock strikes midnight. The world is quiet, silent, and dark, and then, in an instant, everything comes alive with sound, light, and energy. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film “The Revenant” has this same quality, a work of staggering patience that lingers within dark and bleak atmospheres only to burst to life with scenes of beautiful landscapes and spectacles of brutal violence, all this accompanied by a performance by Leonardo DiCaprio that is beyond committed. “The Revenant” is a painstaking journey, from a talented director, to portray nature and humanity in its most raw and pure form.
Trappers from a fur company are exploring the American wilderness, guided by a cautious yet steadfast man named Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio). The group is attacked by Native American’s and forced to find a new route through the cold and snowy mountains. While scouting the area a bear viciously mauls Glass, leaving him clinging for life. Members of his group (Tom Hardy and Will Poulter), including his son (Forrest Goodluck), stay behind to care for Glass and make sure he is given a proper burial. Betrayal, fear, and murder lead to Glass being left in a shallow grave, forced to crawl inch by inch to seek revenge.
“The Revenant” is based on true events, first described in Michael Punke’s novel “The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge”. It’s a very simplistic narrative design; man is betrayed, man seeks revenge. But in the hands of Mr. Iñárritu this tale of retribution takes on a different kind of life through the director’s unique filmmaking technique and unequaled style. Whether the one-takes, impressively done in an early fight scene that transitions from land, to horseback, then to boat, or the extended scenes that present nature in menacing and serene ways, it all builds in creating an atmosphere that is filled with tension but also, in a way, accomplishes a dream-like or hallucinatory effect.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives an extraordinary lead performance, one of the best of his career. A majority of Mr. DiCaprio’s portrayal in the film is physical and demanding; its been noted that the actor was incredibly diligent with staying in character even when the camera wasn’t rolling but also going to extremes within certain scenes so that Mr. Iñárritu could maintain authenticity with the character. Tom Hardy is also in the film, overdoing a strong accent, but providing a spineless foe that cares more about saving his own hide.
Mr. Iñárritu isn’t one for subtlety, the themes here are big and bursting, sometimes pretentious, as are the locations that sweep through and over and across green and white landscapes that veil the brutal behavior occurring within it. However, even when the elements begin to overtake and muddle one another, especially when the film takes on a spiritual approach to connect Hugh Glass beyond reality, the director provides substance by utilizing his striking style to accommodate the simplicities of the story but also presenting what’s going on in the background during this time in history, the manipulation and genocide of the Native Americans and also the greed of corporations and desperation of the working man in early America.
“The Revenant” is a cinematic adventure from a director who utilizes elaborate methods to make a revenge film into something far more intricate and provocative than it might have been in different hands.
4.25 out of 5.00