It was only last year that I found myself being absolutely floored by the brilliance Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman, a film I consider to be one of my all-time favorites and a film that unsurprisingly took home four Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.
A year later, Inarritu has returned with perhaps his most wildly ambitious film yet, and a film that is likely to find both him and Leonardo DiCaprio at the center of the Oscar conversation.
Based loosely on Michael Punke’s novel of the same name, The Revenant follows 1823 fur-trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) who while on an expedition gets mauled by a bear, witnesses the death of his native american son at the hands of a callous and bitter fellow fur-trapper Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and finds himself left for dead by his comrades. Moaning and grunting he escapes a shallow grave and goes on a mission to avenge the death of his son and find redemption while also attempting to survive the exceedingly intense weather conditions.
The Revenant is quite simply a breathtaking cinematic experience. It is a film that grabs you from the magnificently orchestrated opening sequence and never lets go until the credits have finally rolled. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has crafted one of the most immersive, beautiful and harrowing films to ever grace the big screen.
The story at heart is relatively simple and the film actually contains very little dialogue, but it’s through the incredible performances and Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s masterful work behind the camera that The Revenant remains gripping throughout. The film is easily one of the most visually sublime films I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing, every image, every frame feels so lucid and so vivid that it’s impossible to not be left astounded.
The film’s sheer brutal and unflinching nature is magnified in the form of an incredible scene in which Glass played by DiCaprio is mauled by a bear, and just the grit and intensity of the scene was enough to leave me at edge of my seat. But while the film stays pretty brutal and bleak throughout it has a really great lyrical quality to it as well, which in my opinion gives the whole film great meaning.
The film’s emotional center comes in the form of Terrence Malick-like dream sequences which also act as expository plot devices and give the film a powerful evocative touch.
It seems no film starring Leonardo DiCaprio these days is able to not spark a debate about his chances at winning an Oscar and he may finally have his name on the Best Actor Oscar because he gives by far the most committed and physically challenging performance of his career. DiCaprio literally goes to hell and back in this film and the fact that he has barely five or six lines in the movie and sells his entire performance through his eyes and facial expressions is a testament to his brilliance as an actor.
Equally great is Tom Hardy who nearly steals the show from DiCaprio in his turn as the villainous Fitzgerald. His menacing and commanding performance is truly something to behold as well.
The Revenant is a starkly beautiful, haunting, sometimes jaw-dropping epic of the frontier. It’s a breathtakingly shot examination of what a person can do to survive and a film that’s poetic and lyrical while also being brutal and exceedingly intense. It’s one of the best films I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in sometime and easily one of the best ones of 2015.