When was the last time you can remember feeling physically and mentally expelled after watching a film, but simultaneously also completely satisfied, leaving you wanting to watch it again? The Revenant (directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu) is the most intense, beautiful and unsettling cinematic experience that I have had in years. A dramatized version of the real life and story of frontiersman Hugh Glass, the film follows Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) as he is left for dead and forced to survive in the unforgiving wilderness alone and injured.
This Frontier of 1823 is brought to life by meticulous details that come together seamlessly: the set design and costuming are accurate to the period and feel lived in and worn, the injuries and battle wounds on various characters heal gradually over time and look unnervingly realistic, and finally the fact that this film was shot entirely on location deep in the Canadian wilderness utilizing only natural lighting all cumulates to create a feeling of authenticity that is unparalleled in Hollywood films today.
This authenticity is helped in a huge way by Emmanuel Lubezki’s masterful cinematography. The Revenant is a visual splendour and while the images are rough and at times hard to look at, the gliding long takes and wide angles that last upwards of five or ten minutes had me transfixed, unable to look away. By all accounts The Revenant is one of the best looking films I have seen in years. In addition to this, the choreography and staging of the actors is incredibly complex, and the way the handheld camera weaves throughout the world and in between characters and action creates a very interesting sensation of multi-dimension, leaving the viewer not only in awe of the amazing visuals but also the effort and craftsmanship that when into creating them.
While all performances were excellent DiCaprio deserves special attention for what he was able to achieve while barely ever speaking. For much of the film Glass is silent and DiCaprio communicates complex feeling using nothing but his face, particularly his eyes. It is incredible how much emotion and humanity he was able to express silently, a feat that not any actor can properly achieve. His performance is being touted as Oscar-worthy, and deservedly so. Tom Hardy also brings his A-game and while he is likely to be overshadowed by DiCaprio, he deserves credit for his grisly and realistic portrayal of John Fitzgerald. While this character is similar in demeanor to those he has played before, his gruff and grumbly voice and intimidating presence suit the role and subject matter quite perfectly.
I honestly did not dislike anything about this film; however that is not to say that it is for everyone, particularly the squeamish. This film is violent in a visceral, gut-wrenching way that feels so realistic at times I found myself physically wincing in the theater. While I personally think that this violence suits the dark subject matter, it is certainly not for the faint of heart.
The Revenant is a heart pounding, anxiety inducing thrill ride that will leave you feeling emotionally exhausted by its conclusion. Showcasing incredible performances, a meticulous care for fine details, as well as mesmerising cinematography and direction from a duo that have truly solidified their roles as masters of the craft, this film is something that should not be missed.