Genre: Action and Adventure
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Cast: Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Lukas Haas
Release Date: January 8th, 2016
“As long as you can still grab a breathe, cheapest you fight.” That is the unmistakable and undeniable mantra of Hugh Glass, the tough frontiersman at the center of the new drama The Revenant. Played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Glass is a guide in the 1820s who has witnessed death and knows the value of life, a value he teaches to his young son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). It’s a value that thematically underscores director Alejandro González Iñárritu masterful and unforgettable production.
In 2014, Iñárritu directed and cowrote Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). That feature was a work of art, a film that came alive partially because of the risks that the director took in bringing it onscreen. The whole feature played out like one long continuous shot. It was a risky venture but one that triumphantly worked.
One would think that Oscar winner Iñárritu would be willing to play it safe after accomplishing such a feat onscreen. Instead, he does the opposite.
The Revenant, his latest cinematic creation, is a brutally effective drama about the power of the human spirit that was filmed in some of nature’s harshest conditions. The weather conditions though aren’t the bleakest elements of the feature. Within the movie’s opening moments, a group of travelers led by Glass i is brutally attacked in a disturbingly visceral scene of death and violence. The environment that this director quickly envelopes us in is a grim and harsh world where death could be awaiting you at any moment.
After surviving the attack, Glass walks ahead of his group and is mauled by a bear in a terrifyingly brutal sequence. His body is ravaged. Even when the his group finds him, they are surprised that he is still breathing.
Believing that Glass is on the verge of death but not wanting to end the man’s life, Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) leaves Glass under the care and supervision of his associate John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a young man named Bridger (Will Poulter) and Glass’ young son Powaqa (Nakehk’o). After a betrayal though, Glass is left for dead — his emaciated body nearly buried alive in the harsh and unforgiving wilderness.
Inspired by true events and partially adapted by Michael Punke’s book The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, the feature chronicles Glass’ journey as he survives the elements and enemies on all sides. DiCaprio, unlike so many of his previous roles, is forced to carry much of the movie alone with his physical performance. After the bear attack, Glass can barely speak but the actor still manages to communicate his character’s emotions as Glass struggles under tremendously difficult physical conditions and under grueling emotional torment.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki beautifully captures the landscape and look of this treacherous world. The environment here is filled with unknown physical dangers, fiercely cold weather but beautiful natural resources and it’s to the credit of Lubezki and Iñárritu that the filmmaking crew was able to depict it so realistically. Numerous reports have noted how difficult and arduous the film shoot was but the toughness of the shoot seeps its way into the whole film, offering audiences a true glimpse of this grim reality.
Against the odds, Iñárritu has crafted another auspicious cinematic masterpiece here. Glass’ struggle to survive and his quest for revenge come to vivid and memorable life in this long but masterful production. Glass’ mantra is realized thanks in part to the brilliant lead performance of DiCaprio, the majestic vision of Lubezki and the courage of Iñárritu.
Iñárritu didn’t play it safe and this film only testifies to the auteur’s incredible artistic abilities.
Review by: John Hanlon