By: Mark Di Stefano
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
After 3 hours of experiencing The Revenant I felt chills the rest of the night, almost as if I were sick. Sure, this could (and probably) was a coincidence, but I couldn’t doubt the power that this movie can bare on one’s being. No one can watch movies like this and not have a little part of them taken away.
I mean, after seeing Leonardo DiCaprio gut a dead horse and crawl inside it for warmth, no one can forget that.
The Revenant is unlike anything you’ve ever seen at the movies in recent years. I knew going in that it was going to be a big film, but I didn’t know I would be short-changing it by just saying “big.” It’s epic, in every sense of the word; In scope, in beauty, in talent, and epically breathtaking.
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won a Best Director Oscar for last year’s Birdman, adapted the movie based in part by Michael Punkes novel. Set in 1823, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is a tracker leading a group of hunters through uncharted wilderness. After a vicious bear attack that almost kills him, he is stranded and left for dead by his hunting team. With little strength and vengeance in his heart, he travels through dangerous winter terrain to get revenge on John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).
Lets get this out of the way first: Will Leo get the Oscar this year? Probably. Not because everyone says that it’s long overdue and all of that jargon, but because he damn well deserves it for this role. Not once, whether it’s Leo swimming in freezing waters or eating raw bison meat, was I suspended in disbelief with his performance. You believe every single second. When his breath is freezing and you see it on camera, you don’t fake that out there shooting in the cold. Like Hugh Glass, DiCaprio will take you to the edge of the earth to explore the unknown, and for that reason I’m sold that he could get the Oscar.
While Leo is the talk of the town, the principal cast deserve credit where credit’s due. Hardy is a cold brute here, and a great one at that. Domhnall Gleeson is great as well, and proving to be on the rise thanks to recent roles in Ex Machina and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Will Poulter is, to me, someone to look for in the near future. As Jim Bridger, you can see the struggle he displays between playing someone wholesome in moral compass, struggle with right and wrong when it comes to taking orders from Fitzgerald. While he is known for We’re The Millers, his role here will sure open doors to what else he can surprise us with.
Hardy’s Fitzgerald is a great foil to DiCaprio’s Glass. While he is clearly a villain, you could argue that he was only to do what’s right in the beginning. It’s a hard argument and I don’t want to spoil too much, however I will say it was the wild west, where out in the wilderness there’s no law. His right from wrong is different from Glass’ right from wrong. There is a clear right side and wrong side here but you can see the both in Fitzgerald, conflicting with one another, and Hardy pulls that off. While Glass’ determination to get back is driven by survival, Fitzgerald’s is driven by greed and madness, yet both are equivalent forces driving in opposite directions. It’s an interesting parallel that I haven’t seen on screen this year.
What sold the movie as well was that it was actually shot out there in the freezing wilderness. Shot by Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who previously worked with Iñárritu on Birdman, every single frame could be a painting. From fog swirling through the tops of trees to the beautiful stars in the sky, Lubezki is the kind of guy who will stay up all night out in the freezing cold to get his perfect shot (which I wouldn’t doubt probably happened out there). Unlike Birdman, there are no 20-minute takes here. There are long sequences though, where one minute DiCaprio is huddled by a fire for warmth and the next he’s swimming down the river to escape oncoming attackers. He grabs your attention and lets you go when he feels like it.
I honestly don’t know how this movie was physically made. Given all the reported troubles caused by weather during production, it would seem as if every single possible force out there was against it. However, led by Captain Iñárritu and DiCaprio as its tracker, they lead their cast and crew to make one of the finest films of the past year. If you haven’t seen it yet, see it in theaters before it’s too late. An experience like this doesn’t come around often.