The Revenant

Posted: January 15, 2016 in Movie Reviews

The-Revenant-Leonardo-DiCaprio1

There are two age-old facets and themes of film that have been utilized in cinema for decades. The first is that of getting home: the protagonist(s), by circumstances beyond their control, find themselves helplessly far from their home and must overcome the hurdles and obstacles that stand in their path to the ones they love. The second is that of survival: the main character(s) faces numerous dilemmas—whether man vs. man (the vast majority of war films), man vs. society (The Hunger Games series), or man vs. nature (Cast Away and Apollo 13). The Revenant embodies both of these aspects and deals with two of these “man vs.” scenarios.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

In the American frontier during the 1820s, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio—Titanic, Inception) leads a group of fur trappers through the bitter wilderness. When they’re attacked by the Pawnee, the slowly-dwindling group must flee to safety, leaving their prized pelts behind.

When Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear and mauled within an inch of his life, he is betrayed by fellow frontiersman John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy—The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road) who murders his son and leaves him for dead. Empowered with the will to survive, Glass endures the bitter cold and hostile elements on a path of sheer revenge.

Also starring: Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Paul Anderson, and Domhnall Gleeson

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Coming off of last year’s tremendous Oscar success, director Alejandro González Iñárritu delivers an epic and compelling narrative. Though this reviewer wasn’t convinced that his Best Picture film Birdman deserved the prestigious award, his Best Director win was a merited accolade. The Revenant only solidifies his standing as a near-brilliant and visionary director. Like Birdman, this film is a representation of sheer tenacity that defined past directors like David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia) and William Wyler (Ben-Hur).

There were two films released in 2015 that redefined film logistics on a Lord of the Rings-level. The first was Mad Max: Fury Road. The second was The Revenant. Shot entirely on location, this film utilizes natural lighting (that means no artificial studio lighting, relying solely on weather patterns) and a certain grittiness that few film-makers or studios care to imbue in their projects. The only CGI effects used are animals. Practically everything else your eye beholds is tangibly real, a technique that gives the film an organic feel.

But what truly makes this film such a critical hit is the acting. Blessed with incredible acting talent, you will not find one bad performance in the film. Being placed so prominently in real locations affords the actors to reflect their settings in their work. But the honest truth is that acting was probably not required for much of the film. When Leo DiCaprio is freezing to death of hypothermia, he isn’t acting. When Leo DiCaprio is gagging on the raw meat of a buffalo, he isn’t faking it. And it takes the term “actor’s determination” to entirely new levels. At times it feels like a survivalist show on reality television (except that this film is probably more authentic).

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy_The Revenant

As much as every actor pours their all into their performance, it’s once again DiCaprio who steals the show. It’s why he’s among the most sought-after actors working today; because he consistently imbues the films he’s in with Oscar-worthy performances. Even if Leo never wins his Oscar, it will never, ever, change the fact that he is a quality actor who puts forth his greatest effort in whatever he does. Even though he still most likely will not win for this film, The Revenant is, if anything, a testament to his often-excruciating ability and sheer talent.

In a nutshell:

The Revenant is not a film for the faint of heart. Gritty, graphic, raw, tenacious, bold, and agonizingly intense at times, the only thing this film truly suffers from is an often-excessive length. It’s been nominated for multiple Academy Awards, and it will deserve any award it wins. Seldom are we treated to a film with such dedication, where cast and director instill their passion and zeal for the art of film. Though perhaps not re-watchable enough to merit a purchase on Blu-ray, this is nonetheless an experience one will not soon forget.

8 stars

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