Inspired by true events, "The Revenant" is visceral cinematic experience capturing one man’s epic adventure of survival and the power of the human spirit.
Directed and co-written by last year’s Best Director Academy Award winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu for "Birdman", early on in the story we find an array of rough looking fur trappers on an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness with expert explorer named Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio). From the onset the men are both pleased with their bounty of furs they have trapped but also very weary of running into Native Americans who they know will not hesitate to kill them for their “pelt furs” being that they are so far away from their home (fort). As to be expected their worst nightmare comes to graphic fruition when they are brutally attacked by Natives killing several men in their frantic escape to get to their docked boat.
Somewhat lost and also knowing they have to find another way back home now, the leader of the expedition Captain Andrew Henry sends out Hugh Glass (Leonardo Di Caprio) to find an alternate way back home. While out alone in the hopes of finding that new trail Glass is brutally attacked by Mother Bear. Appearing to be near death, Captain Henry orders two men John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) to stay with Glass until he either dies or gets better enough to travel on his own. Fitzgerald on the other hand is having none of it and leaves Glass alone for what he believes is his eminent death. But Glass does survive and begins his trek home enduring unimaginable pain, hunger and brutal vicious winter conditions to seek out John Fitzgerald for his betrayal.
MY OVERALL TAKE: “The Revenant” is one of the top ten movies for 2015. DiCaprio tells Glass’s story (which is the central POV of the film), not so much through a lot of verbal acting and interactions with others in the film (which I should tell you, Leo hardly says less than a 100 words of dialogue in the first 90 minutes of this 2 hour 30 minute film). Instead the real acting prowess displayed by Leo here is his ability to show genuine anger, grief, desperation, hunger, fear and physical hardship through his eyes, his emotions and body language.
Leo time and time again reminds us about the real life and death struggles early Americans must have endured for their basic survival and it’s with Director Iñárritu masterful eye we are offered exhilarating entertainment through a visual portrait of how Man and Mother Nature collided and how nevertheless Mother Nature once had dominion over man’s basic existence in ways that were grueling and unforgiving.
And while the film could have probably been 15 minutes shorter, there was not one moment I was bored; as I genuinely felt I had been catapulted to a different time that was unimaginable to live and yet still nonetheless bathed in extraordinary panoramic vistas of endless majestic mountainscapes, snow covered fields, icy rivers and tall pine trees that seem to stretch to the heavens. This may be some of best looking visuals of nature and untouched earth you have or will ever see on the big screen.
Still, I get the feeling “The Revenant” won’t be everyone’s cup of movie going tea, as while it reflects brilliantly and visually on a much simpler time it still asks the viewing audience to do more thinking and reflecting on its plot that the typical film which normally guides you to its conclusion through dramatic dialogue.
Now be warned, “The Revenant is brutally graphic in its use of violence. I am not squeamish at all, but I still had moments where I turned my head a bit at the realism of what I was seeing being play out on the screen in vivid detail. But it is with this harshness that I think gives the film its real life; its soul – it’s somber but definite heartbeat of a man seeking revenge while literally struggling to survive with each breath and step he takes.
Tom Hardy was his usually strong fabulous self and while there were a few instances his “slurred mountain lingo” escaped me as to what he actually said, he was perfectly cast as the counter weight to Leo’s Glass character who wants him dead. But the real strength of this film is indeed both Leo’s performance and the remorseless brutal hell he endures to exact his revenge. And while I have no doubt that Leo‘s name will be announce next week as a Best Actor nominee for his work here, the unsung heroes of this fine piece of work are both the Cinematographer and Camera Man who from what I heard only used the natural light of the sun (unusual for major films these day) to create an unforgettable visual landscape of pure grandeur.
“The Revenant” is not a rental film at all. It almost burst off the giant screen in the theater itself it felt so big as it gives you the haunting juxtaposition sense of cold, filth, blood and direness of those times with boundless siren beauty as any film could possible do. I highly recommend to all who want to see this at some point to make the effort to go to a local theater to experience it – you will be glad you did.
I looked up the word “revenant” to garner its meaning; it said it is “a person who has returned supposedly from the dead”. Colloquially speaking from my point of view, I think it also means, “Leo gets his Oscar”.