The Revenant tells the story of Hugh Glass’ (Leonardo DiCaprio) survival in a harsh and unforgiving environment after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and the rest of his hunting team. Glass must overcome his inevitable death, track down Fitzgerald and exact his revenge.
The first and most striking aspect of The Revenant is the breath-taking cinematography. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have done a phenomenal job in portraying the dangerous and merciless landscape of Montana and South Dakota. Iñárritu insisted on only filming scenes in natural light, creating a gruelling and enduring schedule for the cast and crew to adhere to. However, the final film proves that the specific complexion of the shoot paid off ten fold, with no other film this year being able to rival the bewitching beauty of The Revenant.
Be that as it may, there is an immeasurable brutality to Hugh Glass’ story that Iñárritu doesn’t shy away from, in fact focussing in on all the details of its savagery. You will become all too familiar with DiCaprio’s screams of pain as we undertake the long journey from an unfortunate encounter with a bear, to the final barbaric showdown between Glass and Fitzgerald that doesn’t feel satisfying or just but distressingly uncomfortable to watch.
I left the cinema feeling emotionally drained and exhausted. This is due, in large part, to DiCaprio’s performance. There’s a lot to be said for his preferred method acting that added a layer of realism to The Revenant that would otherwise be left wanting. Just like in the way you know that Tom Cruise puts himself in real danger for the sake of a film, you know that the bison liver DiCaprio is eating in the freezing cold is disgustingly real. I’ve never really bought into the whole “Leo deserves an Oscar” argument but after watching The Revenant, I’m finding it hard to disagree. I mean, Nicholas Cage has an Oscar and he didn’t need to eat any raw bison livers to win it either.
Of course, The Revenant doesn’t just star Leo taking part in extreme bush tucker trials and boasts a superb supporting cast. Tom Hardy is predictably brilliant, if not a little hard to understand. And when I say a little hard, I mean I was begging for subtitles in the first half an hour but despite this, Hardy added a certain sympathetic and understandable depth to a character that just wanted to survive when it was in danger of becoming another cartoon villain. Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter also deserve apt recognition for their smaller supporting roles.
There are certainly flaws in Iñárritu’s work, with there being a few too many chance meetings between essential characters within a very much-established sparse and desolate setting. There are also questions raised over length and pacing in a film that spends too much time toiling in its second act that, in effect, makes the third act feel rushed and all too quick. However, these flaws didn’t detract from my enjoyment of The Revenant, as I stayed utterly engrossed in this world that Alejandro G. Iñárritu had created.
The Revenant is one of the most memorable and visually striking films of the last 5 years that showcases Leonardo DiCaprio in the peak of his career. Although at times it is excruciatingly difficult to watch, The Revenant is a film you just can’t miss out on.