The Revenant (2015) Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulte. IMDB says: “A frontiersman named Hugh Glass on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s is on a quest for survival after being brutally mauled by a bear.”
“We knew what we had to do”
All you had to tell me was Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy were starring in a film directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu and I would’ve went. The length wouldn’t have mattered nor would the subject matter have mattered. The chance to see these artists collaborate while they’re at the top of their game is reason enough. Combine that with a solid supporting cast and the incredible work of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman, Children of Men) and you have not just a movie, but a true cinematic experience. The size and scope of this film needs to be experienced on the big screen. I usually wait until the end to say this, but you NEED to see this film in theatres. You’re doing yourself an enormous disservice if you wait for Redbox or Netflix. Enormous.
The Revenant tells the story of Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) an explorer who’s charting the course for a group of pioneers. They’re gathering pelts for sale, but after a surprise attack from a group of natives, they’re forced to flee for their lives. A small group escapes and tensions begin to flare. While out hunting for food Glass is attacked by a bear (which is putting it lightly) and is incapacitated, causing the whole group to care for him. John Fitzgerald (Hardy) is against the idea and eventually kills Glass’s son in front of Glass and then Glass himself. Or so he thinks. Glass is alive and he wants revenge. I know what you’re thinking, I’ve ruined the whole film for you. You’d be wrong. We’ve seen all of that in the trailer, and even then, that’s MAYBE the first forty minutes; we still have another 2 hours of film.
If Leonardo DiCaprio does not win an Academy Award for this role, then he will never win the award. This role is a tour de force and a half. Throughout the film he’s in a next level realm of method acting that could only be paralleled by the likes of Daniel Day Lewis. The complexity of his character is matched beat for beat by Tom Hardy. Hardy brings a quiet insanity to the role, choking the life out of you with just his eyes, while he growls and chews his way through the dialogue with whatever accent he’s pulling off. (It sounds like a Louisiana swamp man after living in Baltimore for a spell) Domhall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Will Poulter (We’re The Millers), and Forrest Goodluck (who makes his theatrical debut in this film) are solid in their roles, but this isn’t their movie. Anytime Hardy or DiCaprio are on screen, that’s where your eyes stay.
When not watching DiCaprio or Hardy, you’ll be staring at moving paintings. The ethereal floating camerawork of Inarritu is on full display but the canvas on which he paints is filled with nothing but true natural colors. The entire film was shot using natural light and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki knocks this so far out of the park that the park isn’t even visible anymore. (Mainly because it’s covered in snow) Moments when they’re showcasing the landscapes are absolutely gorgeous. Even the action scenes and Terrence Malick style flashbacks are second to none. The score compliments the film. Rather than become another character (like the score in Birdman), Ryuichi Sakamoto composes music that lays in the background like snow and occasionally emerges with beauty like the sun.
Niceties aside, I had two problems with the film. Whenever the Native Americans spoke, it seemed like their voices didn’t match the movement of their mouths as if there was re-recording done and things didn’t quite match up. It didn’t pull me out of the film, but it was distracting. The other issue I had was the CGI animals. I understand you can’t just get a herd of buffalo and have them act on command. I do. But their composition felt off to me. Maybe it’s because of the natural lighting or maybe I’m just being nitpicky. The exemption to this is the bear that attacks DiCaprio. I would’ve sworn this thing was real.
One thing you want to be mindful of is that this is not an easy film to sit through. The action is very intensive and raw. The fight DiCaprio has with the bear is, and I swear there is no pun intended, grisly. This movie is NOT gory or gruesome it’s just truly grisly. There was a woman seated next to me who got up about thirty or forty minutes into the film and never came back. I could see her attempting to hide her face but even the sounds are grisly and unforgiving. So be forewarned: don’t eat before seeing this movie or during the movie. Like, maybe skip the popcorn or peanut M&M’s this time.
As I said ealier, this film NEEDS to be experienced on the big screen so stop reading this and go already!
As I sit here at my desk I am suddenly at a loss for words. Where exactly do I begin in describing to you readers what I witnessed last night on the silver screen. There is so much to talk about, yet I still don’t know where to start. I guess we shall begin with a bit of prerequisite on the director himself.
It was only one year ago that I saw my first film from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. So yes, the only movie of his that I have actually seen was Birdman. I absolutely fell in love with Birdman and it went on to grab the Oscar for Best Picture this past awards season. I look forward to checking out Inarritu’s other films soon as I am very much a fan of his work and the way he shoots his films.
After seeing this movie, all I can say is God bless the actors and crew. The conditions that must have been endured to shoot a movie of this scale and in such a brutal climate had to be a rough experience.
The cinematography in this film is an amazing accomplishment for the director and crew. The vast tundra landscapes are absolutely gorgeous on screen and so real you can feel the chill in the air. Also the fact that they used all natural lighting and shot in chronological order is just mind-boggling. Everything you see on screen just feels so authentic and as a viewer it sucks you right into the world of an 1820’s fur trader.
Besides the visuals, we also have an amazing score. Some scores can be a bit overpowering, like every Hanz Zimmer score. This one feels a lot more a part of the movie and the environment as opposed to being of character of its own, which works amazingly for a film of this caliber without beating the viewer over the head with a pounding opus.
Now on the the story. The Revenant follows a band of fur trappers set in the 1820’s. They are led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) as they make their way back to camp with several fur pelts in tow. Very quickly the group of men find themselves fighting for their lives against a brutal band of Native Americans looking for a kidnapped female from their tribe. The group’s numbers are whittled down to about ten men in the opening minutes of the film. Soon after, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) suffers a ferocious bear attack while out hunting and finds himself struggling to stay alive. After terrain becomes too treacherous, the group decide to leave a couple men behind with Glass until he passes and can be given a proper burial. One thing leads to another and Glass finds himself abandoned and left for dead by fellow trader John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Bridger (Will Poulter). The rest of the film follows Glass and his journey back to camp to seek vengeance for the wrong done to him by Fitzgerald. This all leads up to a very intense final confrontation that had me clenching my fists.
The performances in the movie are all solid, but clearly DiCaprio steals the show. Hardy plays a villain like no other and will be utterly despised by audiences. Gleeson is also amazing and has yet another amazing credit to add to his roster for 2015. It was also nice to see Will Poulter, whom most know from We’re the Millers, show off his acting chops a bit.
The main focus of the film though is DiCaprio. The conditions and things he had to do for the role are absolutely wild. In interviews he has talked about the intensity of filming including being subjected to hypothermic conditions while filming scenes in and out of freezing cold water. Also being a vegetarian must have been rough while shooting scenes where he actually ate raw meat. The things he went through for the role are what make his role so believable and real. At one point DiCaprio even climbs inside a dead animal carcass to keep warm as part of the role. He also had to learn how to shoot a musket, build a fire and speak two native American languages for his character. My money is for sure on DiCaprio for the Oscar for leading male, it would be well deserved.
Now for those of you venturing to cinemas this weekend to check the film out, keep in mind a couple things. There are multiple scenes that some might find grotesque and extremely intense. I don’t recommend eating a meal before this film if you have a weak stomach or dislike the sight of blood, intense violence and animal innards. Other than that, you are in for an amazing feature.
I highly recommend seeing this film in the theatres as it is meant to be seen. I’m aware the screener leaked weeks ago but….c’mon guys, just pay for your ticket like everyone else. This is an amazing start to 2016 and has personally already made my top of 2015!
FTS SCORE: 88%
The Revenant expands to theaters nationwide January 16, 2016.