Leo is having a really, really bad day.
Director Alejandro G. Inarritu returns after his colossal success with last year’s Birdman, and The Revenant is a whole new experience!
In the 1820s, during an expedition on the Native American frontier for hide, a hunter accompanying them has his son murdered and is abandoned by his peers, buried alive. He now has to survive the icy winter gripped wasteland without food or weapons so he can enact his revenge.
Inarritu has crafted a superbly visual experience with The Revenant. The film is a hard edged, bleak experience, but every single shot (I am not even kidding around here) is beautiful and when seen on the big screen, it envelopes and immerses you. Inarritu’s drifting, dreamlike steady-cam and crane work allows the audience to float through the dense frost laden forests and ice floes. The cinematography is gorgeous, truly reinvigorating cinema’s nature as a visual medium.
Leonardo Di Caprio performs his heart and soul out on screen here, initially as no nonsense hunter Hugh Glass and as a father with a troubled past and conflict with his colleagues, only to be savagely mauled half to death by a grizzly bear. This is only the beginnings of his problems! The make-up and survivalist realism that befalls poor Di Caprio is guaranteed to make you wince and shiver in anxiety; he gets his throat torn, he eats the marrow from carrion just to survive, he is utterly destroyed!
(a cynical person would say all of this is a huge metaphor for his desire to win that elusive Best Actor Academy Award…)
The crazy juxtaposition is this cruel fate and horridly painful journey of our luckless protagonist upon the background of such lush visuals, both cruelly cold and beautifully relieving. Indeed, a lot of the film’s terror is soothed with Inarritu’s sweeping camera capturing the natural beauty of the world.
The story itself, unlike 2015’s Birdman, is remarkably simple! It is a revenge movie. But revenge is often best served cold, and with simplicity. The rest of our cast, especially Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson (he is getting around these days, and he is excellent!) all perform wonderfully well and everyone excels under those endless, sweeping shots.
But, and there’s always a but, although this is purely personal, it is a bleak movie. While I could see myself buying it someday, I don’t see myself sitting down to watch it often at all! It is an exhausting experience, arresting you for its whole duration until you are spent and just able to think: “Wow, that was intense”.
That is no detraction from the film; it is a perfect piece of film-making hands down. I just imagine audiences aren’t going to be ready for what’s in store for them. The final evidence that it is perfect film making, is that though it has a simple plot and harsh reality, I didn’t find the 156 minutes dragging.
I would love Di Caprio to get his Oscar… it is a worthy performance and an awesome film (the film deserves all the awards it is given!) I was simply blown away by the technical achievement shown. It annihilates ventures from Nolan and other modern directors…