Directed: Akejandro G. Inarritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter
Fancy a nice Friday night popcorn flick? Do not go and see The Revenant. Seriously, it’s not for the fainthearted. I would be lying if I said I enjoyed watching it – I spent most of the 156 minute run-time squirming in my seat – but it is without a doubt an experience (which is probably what a trip to the cinema should be).
Telling the story of fur-trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), the films title tells you all you need to know – a revenant is someone who has come back from the dead. Life is not kind to this man. He’s lost his wife before the film even starts, and then we see him get mauled by a bear and watch his son get murdered before he is placed in a shallow grave. Puts your problems into perspective, right?
DiCaprio is at the top of his game here, delivering the performance that could finally bag him that Oscar. To be able to communicate meaning into long sequences that are free of dialogue (bar wailing and grunting) is a credit to the guy, and whilst the other Best Actor nominees all delivered great performances I think he is truly the best of them.
Whilst it would be easy to say that the acting is all down to DiCaprio’s central performance, that would be unfair to the equally strong supporting cast. Tom Hardy almost steals the show as John Fitzgerald, a character who would have come across as purely villainous in the hands of a lesser talent, yet Hardy manages to communicate glimpses of humanity through fear.
Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson round out the supporting cast providing the most emotional turns, which keeps the film grounded amidst the near animalistic characters played by DiCaprio and Hardy. One thing that is clear across the board is that the authenticity – filmed on location in Canada and Argentina, these guys were actually out in the sub-zero temperatures and it shows in the final product.
Speaking of on location, it’s no secret that most of the cast and crew appear to have been to hell and back in the process of making this movie. Hopefully they will all deem it worth it now that they know how incredible it looks on screen – there is no way you could mistake the stunning locations for a green screen.
The small touches of CGI blend in seamlessly – particularly that uncomfortably authentic bear attack. There were mistaken reports early on that the bear rapes poor Hugh, but it’s more of an intense mauling, which is by far bad enough. You feel every excruciating blow.
The sound work is also incredible – you feel like you are out there in the cold with them (hence the squirming I was talking about earlier). The score from Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto is used sparingly to great effect. The painstaking effort that has gone into making this film is clear in every aspect, from the cinematography to the editing, and it is almost a given that it will win big this month at the Oscars.
It could be argued that the film is perhaps a little heavy on the graphic brutality and less on the philosophical lessons, but this is a film about surviving against the odds (and nature), and in that sense it delivers and then some. The stories about shooting have been well documented, but did you ever take a minute to think what eating a raw bison’s liver and sleeping in an animal carcass would look like on screen? Spoiler alert: It’s not pretty.
In terms of the brutality, it is unflinching from the get go but never for the sake of it – these were the conditions that fur trappers really had to deal with, after all. The Revenant is a visceral experience in every sense of the word, a technical triumph in film-making that demands to be experienced.
What do you think of The Revenant? Let me know in the comments section!