Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson
After being brutally mauled by a bear, frontiersman Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is abandoned and left for dead by his own hunting team. So begins not only a painful recovery as Glass is forced to use all his skills to not only recover from his severe injuries but also survive the harsh and isolated winter landscape alone, but also a journey of revenge on the man who betrayed and abandoned him (Hardy).
Alejandro Iñárritu (in whichever way he decides his name should appear on the credits) has always been an ambitious filmmaker, and now it seems that the exceptional award winning Birdman has led to the studios giving him Carte Blanche in the same way they have with Christopher Nolan with what films he wants to do next. As with Nolan, Iñárritu has most definitely earned this status, albeit seemingly at the second attempt. Thankfully after the disappointing Babel he decided to ditch the whole intertwining stories network narrative and focus on different styles.
The Revenant is definitely Iñárritu’s most ambitious film yet, both visually, physically and logistically, but now he has the budget to prove that having big budgets and A List actors at his disposal can just help him realise his bold visions and not dilute them. Vision is very much the key word here, as plot-wise The Relevant is as generic and as basic as they come, but I have always said that it is not about the actual plot itself in isolation but how this said plot is presented.
Iñárritu uses this very simple and basic plot to produce a visceral, visually stunning and emotionally exhausting film that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Cinema is first and foremost a visual medium, and with The Revenant Iñárritu utilises that fact. We are never in any particular doubt about what is going to happen, but through his trademark unbelievably well staged long takes, stunning camerawork, sound, cinematography and a committed leading performance The Revenant is an unforgettable film that grabs the audience by the scruff of the neck and only ever grips increasingly tighter.
Of course making a film is very much a team effort, and though of course the director is essentially the manager of that team, there is not enough credit that can be given to so many members of Iñárritu’s team that help to make The Revenant. It is the visuals, in particular the camerawork, that makes sure we experience the emotional and physical pain that the characters do, and though The Revenant is not a film that needs many repeat viewings, it is an unforgettable experience and must be seen at the cinema.
The performances too are exceptional as Iñárritu certainly makes sure that his cast know that they have been given a test, particularly a physical one. There is very little character development in terms of backstory, but what we see on-screen is certainly more than enough. DiCaprio will surely nab that long-deserved Oscar (thought at is likely to be sadly tainted by the recent equality controversy) as he commands the screen with an incredibly physical performance that has to be seen to be believed. There is very little actual dialogue, but the tortuous experiences of the characters and the visual metaphors certainly speak for themselves.
The supporting cast are also note perfect; though his supposed Texan accent is a little all over the place, Tom Hardy’s trademark intense stare serves him well as the antagonist, and his natural intensity does make his character more than just his admittedly generic narrative depiction. Excellent support is also provided by the ever dependable Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter once again impresses in roles that are much smaller, but still crucial to the narrative.
Admittedly many will not like The Revenant as it is not an easy watch and is an emotionally and physically exhausting experience. Likewise it is perhaps a little too long with a few too many contrivances and though most of the extended one-take sequences only enhance the experience of the film, some do feel more like Iñárritu and his team showing off and could have easily been removed. However, despite the obvious narrative contrivances The Revenant is yet another film that proves Iñárritu to be a bold filmmaker, and those willing to make the effort will be amply rewarded by seeing this vision on the big screen.
The Revenant is cinema at its most visceral; this is a bold film that will perhaps test the patience and physical resolve of many, but is without a doubt one of the most unforgettable visual experiences of the year and essential viewing on the big screen.