An unapologetic visual onslaught that is as emotionally stirring as it is relentlessly violent. Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' emphatically dazzles with a slew of meritorious performances and a consistently grandiose, intimidating backdrop that flawlessly mesh to triumphantly swallow any taker looking for a cinematic experience unlike any other. Impossible to escape unscathed, the cut-throat, survivalist POV rooted in the bloodied, unforgiving tundra which practically leaps off the screen will have you feeling as if you've been thrown weaponless to a pack of starved wolves.
While it may not have the narrative flair or complexity of 'Birdman,' opting for a traditional revenge-driven story arch. Iñárritu's Best Picture follow up rallies behind Emmanuel Lubezki's immaculate cinematography and lead Leonardo Dicaprio's total immersion into his role.
The trailers certainly do a fine job of spoiling the film's narrative and its, still-stinging, structural simplicity. And undoubtedly those wanting to see 'The Revenant' would be better served having not seen any of the film's pre-release media (a tad too late for most). Iñárritu's ambitious epic still manages to stun, sicken, and surprise.
What makes 'The Revenant' so overwhelmingly chaotic, despite resting on a visually steadfast canvas of snow-covered forestry, mountains, and lodges; is the demanding nature of each of its skillfully crafted components. A single viewing is certainly sufficient when simply digesting the narrative, even then a second examination couldn't hurt, especially if you’re partial to transcendental camerawork and premiere panoramas, but I digress. The work of Lubezki, DiCaprio, Iñárritu, etc… make multiple viewings of ‘The Revenant’ an indisputable requirement when taking into consideration the individual effort demands a viewing of undivided attention, and is most importantly worthy of such.
The film's harrowing, factual core and perhaps most intriguing plot point, Hugh Glass' son Hawk, are disposed of quickly, taking a hefty chunk of the emotional complexity out of the picture (metaphorically and physically). That being said, what remains to push the frontiersmen through the choose-your-own-adventure-like narrative is unquestionably a byproduct of what has been ripped from the film. Aided by Lubezki's unprecedented vision, DiCaprio and Hardy's superior chemistry, in addition to Iñárritu's undeniable knack for uncompromising genius, the absence of multi-dimensional sympathy becomes, quite frankly, irrelevant.
The imagery, ranging between unflinchingly genuine and extraordinarily unnatural, was captured in Western Canada primarily, using only natural lighting. Fierce weather conditions, isolated shooting locations, and time restraints extended filming, resulting in Tom Hardy’s departure from the film ‘Suicide Squad’ and an arduous, nine-month long shooting schedule. If the unpredictability and harshness of the film’s elemental component or shooting locales doesn’t impress, the extremity of what the actors were subjected to, physically and mentally, assuredly will.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who feasted upon raw bison meat, regularly swam in frigid waters, and spent a night in the carcass of an animal, continues to challenge the limitations of both his craft and abilities. DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass isn’t the actor’s most emotionally variant role, but is debatably Leonardo’s most emotionally-charged performance. Method and pathos aside, DiCaprio’s willingness to sacrifice, subject, and suffer makes for an impalpably rewarding portrayal.
DiCaprio’s counterpart and nemesis, Tom Hardy’s John Fitzgerald, is a rather one-dimensional beast. Not given much in motivation, Hardy still manages to be compelling. A realist, above all else, Hardy’s Fitzgerald is more a victim of unfortunate circumstance than outright villain. Regardless, I can’t help but swoon watching Tom Hardy portray one tough SOB.
Sealed by a scarily beautiful musical accompaniment that resonates at the most opportune moments. Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant’ is a spellbinding drama deserving of what it laboured significantly to earn, your time.