Length: 156 minutes
Main Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio
Directed By: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Well if there is any Academy Award buzz in 2016 it is probably for Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Hugh Glass in the epic western survival film The Revenant. This film does lots of this right such as creating an engaging story and setting with very few mistakes. It does stand to say that DiCaprio deserved to be nominated for the award but combined with great direction by Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki; this film nears what we would consider a masterpiece.
The plot follows Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), a man who is left for dead by a trapper who killed his son. Glass travels hundreds of miles to try and avenge his son’s death. To make it more chaotic for Glass, he battles a grizzly bear that leaves him completely incapacitated before he goes on his revenge quest. We see his extreme suffering throughout the film where he can barely move, speak or breathe; he is completely pale and will go to extreme measures to make sure he survives each and every day under extreme weather and any other barriers that cross his way.
Maybe the sixth time is the charm for an Oscar for Leonardo DiCaprio. His acting in this film is so visceral and gut wrenching that we get absorbed in his characters struggle. He plays a man of passion. To paraphrase a quote from the film: As long as he has a breath, he will fight. He fights for survival, his family, and his will to live. The other actors in the film like Tom Hardy who plays the main antagonist are also very good but essentially take a back seat for the Hugh Glass character, as he is the star of the show.
The closest film comparison I can make of The Revenant is Cast Away starring Tom Hanks. Both contain a man who is lost in environment and are unexpectedly shut out of society. Both also have minimal dialogue in the survival scenes. The difference is in Cast Away Hank’s character uses the environment as his friend and uses it to his advantage whereas in The Revenant DiCaprio’s character goes to extreme measures to survive against the environment, as it is his own worst enemy.
The biggest things that stand out most to me were two things and neither of them had to do with the great acting from DiCaprio. It’s was how cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life, Gravity) managed to capture great angles and footage within the space of a single long takes and in combination with Iñárritu’s (Babel and Birdman) direction to mix absolute gore and horror with the beautifully sublime. There are a lot of stabbings and shootings that are so up close to the camera in a single take. Add to the fact that the camera does not cut away and most of them in battle scenes are completely unexpected and take us by surprise (for better or for worse). Conversely there are also long shots of tundra, icy lakes and waterfalls and forests under twilight that are absolutely beautiful. This is what keeps us, the viewer, going for the 156-minute runtime whenever the momentum of the film slows down.
This is a film that will constantly captivate the audience either by surprise (good and bad) or by awe and wonderment with us constantly thinking, “Will he survive?” throughout the entirety of the film. The film, like the premise is like an endurance test due to its length, but the various violent, poignant or survival scenes more then make up for it. Therefore I give The Revenant ****1/2