The Revenant: Film Review

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Someone please just give Leonardo DiCaprio an Oscar already! He has worked hard enough, and it’s never been more evident than in The Revenant, where he goes through hell – literally, not for pretend – in savage, freezing conditions to make the most authentic and epic survival tale I have seen in a long time.

DiCaprio is Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in the American west in the 1820s. His group, lead by Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), are ambushed by native Americans who want to kill them to reclaim their furs. It essentially becomes a chase between the groups, but with the added predictament of Glass being well and truly savaged by a bear. His team try to save him but he is slowing down their escape, so John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) hang back to look after Glass and his son while the others go for help. But Fitzgerald does not want to do that – so he leaves Glass for dead.

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The film essentially follows Glass as he endures brutal situation after brutal situation. He barely talks and just grunts due to the pain of his life-threatening injuries. DiCaprio puts himself in all of these situations  for real – from getting in a freezing river, to simply being in the snow at all times, to eating raw bison liver and sleeping inside an animal carcass. It is insane what he did for the role.

That’s not to say he is heaps better than the others. Poulter surprised me because I had never rated his acting that highly, but he was brilliant as the nervous Bridger who is wracked with guilt. He rarely plays that character. Gleeson also plays against type as the captain, who really comes into his own towards the end with a brilliant intense scene that he totally owned.

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But on equal pegging with the cast is the location. Everything was shot on location and wow, it looks amazing. I have not seen landscapes like this on film for a long time. It is so ambitious and Alejandro G. Innaritu is just a flipping genius. I was constantly marvelling at the shots when I should have been focussing on the action. But it was so breathtaking and beautiful, I couldn’t help it! Give cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki another Oscar.

This is brutal and much more violent than I expected. Obviously the bear attack is nasty (and much longer than expected) but there are fights that are so bloody and shocking. The initial battle between the trappers and natives is insane – there are so many people and so much going on in every bit of the frame – the scale is crazy. The amount of rehearsal they must have done to get that right is awesome (they only used natural light, so only had a window of 1-2 hours shooting per day).

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This will not please everybody. It is slow and long and there are long periods without speech. I could appreciate it in terms of filmmaking and I was in awe of the performances and look, but I can see why the regular cinemagoer after a thrill ride may get bored. I’ll admit it sags slightly in the middle but the end is so worth the wait.

All the actors have spoken about how tough the shoot was and you can see that on screen. It adds an authenticity you simply would not get if they were shooting with a green screen in fake weather. They are all cold, and tired and losing the will for real. And I love that. It gives the film more grit and realism. This is a proper filmmaking achievement and the cast and crew should feel some relief that their hard work has really paid off. This is brilliant. Please do yourself a favour and see this in the cinema – you cannot appreciate it otherwise.

In cinemas 15th January 

Trackbacks

  1. […] are all my pics. For more Revenant glory, check my review and my pictures and summary from a Apple Store Q&A with Domhnall and […]

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