Review: The Revenant

The Revenant (2015)

A beautiful and lyrical piece, in which no DiCaprio’s were molested by bears.

This year has seen a mini-revival for the Western genre, with the calendar rounding out on Quentin Tarantino’s intense The Hateful Eight. Yet THE REVENANT comes from a much different school of filmmaking, with director and co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film sharing more with the steady pacing of this year’s Slow West. Inspired by the life of real frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass (played here by Leonardo DiCaprio), and more specifically the 2002 novel by Michael Punke, Captain Henry (Domhall Gleeson) leads a semi-military hunting party back from a trapping expedition, but is set upon by Native American Arikara Indians. Matters are complicated further when Glass is severely mauled by a bear, and is left for dead by the mercenary John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). On the surface, THE REVENANT is a sheer battle of the wills between man and nature, the kind of thing that Bear Grylls would wake up screaming from in his nightmares. Built largely around DiCaprio’s resolute performance, the film is compelling from start to finish. THE REVENANT is undoubtedly fixated on the hyper-masculinity of frontier legends, but if Iñárritu’s Birdman showed a man unable to let go of his past, here is one that is unable give up on life due to raw revenge-filled emotion. It’s a small snapshot of the reported living hell the cast put themselves through to achieve the appropriate levels of authenticity in this harrowing environment. Compelling from start to finish, it is impossible to look away from the screen, even when it is wholly disturbing to keep watching. Beautifully shot, with the breathtaking wilderness of Canada, the United States and Argentina standing in for  parts of the Louisiana purchase, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki brings the reverential view of nature from his work with Terrence Malick and applies it with the white-knuckle intensity of his work on Gravity with regular collaborator Alfonso Cuarón. Mad, lyrical, and a whole lot of other hyperbole to boot. In a word, magnificent.

THE REVENANT opened in limited release in the US on 25 December. It screens in the US from 6 January and in Australia from 7 January 2016 from Fox.

2015 | US | Dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu | Writers: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro González Iñárritu | Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domknall Gleeson, Will Poulter | Distributor: Fox (Australia) | Running time: 156 minutes | Rating:★★★★★