Listed as my most anticipated film of 2015 – though it was only in limited release in 2015 – I was finally able to gaze upon the film that stole my attention for almost a whole year. Winner for Best-Picture, Best-Director, and Best Original Screenplay at the 2014 Oscars, Alejandro Inarritu is showing the world what he is capable of once again in this winter western tale that pits man versus nature versus man. The film is set in the 1800’s in a time where Indian tribes struck fear in the hearts of men as much as the bone chilling weather while Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) finds himself caught in between all of it, and as the pupil of this winter white eye is one of the most impressively shot films I have ever seen and performances that will leave you “breathless”.
DiCaprio and Hardy are two names you pucker up to because of those astounding track records and I am pleased to announce they do not disappoint. Hardy himself has had one of the better years in film as he has starred in four top tier movies, including this one, and he proves to be the best he’s been all year. The violent and stunningly realistic frontier these men are thrown into grips us like the snow and ice that blankets the film in frigid blankets of turmoil and despair. Shot with nothing but natural light – meaning no extra lights besides fire and the sun itself – the film is one of the most stunning works of art I may have ever seen in the world of film and deserves to be recognized. To add to this radiant cinematography by Emmanuel Libezki is a group of actors who deliver some of their best work to date while there are more shots of trees than there are words in this movie.
Thrusting us into the bloodshed of the rivalries ensuing with the Indian tribes and the American trappers, tempers flare with aggression and hatred that makes you cringe as much as the fallen trappers with arrows in their backs. Inarritu proves that he is an experimental director with an eye for physical storytelling as well as he is through sharply written dialogue as shown in Birdman. He makes his actors push their limits and go to extremes I have rarely seen in film and you can feel every moment of pain, exhaustion, heartbreak, and betrayal as Glass is left for dead after a series of events that will make you fear nature as we once did. If you don’t know what I mean, may I suggest looking at the trailer with the bear.
Not only is this is a revenge tale, but in reality a tale of survival that would make Les Stroud want to quit his job. Through the harshest of elements and events, our protagonist that is Hugh Glass falls to having the worst luck imaginable as he treks through frozen tundras, forests, and mountains in search of those who left him to die. DiCaprio is world class in more ways than one, but it’s the sheer physicality he brings to the screen that buys us in to what this actor is truly made of. What a great role for an actor does is make us forget that he/she is an actor and that mission is accomplished with everyone cast, and especially its lead. Sounds of deep breaths and screams of terror bounce will bounce in your heads like an echo chamber will no source of peace and quiet in sight and I assure you that you will feel every blow dealt to our hero as he crawls and mumbles his way to the end of his journey.
Where the film falls in my rankings as the best film of 2015 only for a few scenes that tend to not fit with the overall story like the director may have intended. That’s the risk of using flashbacks and dream sequences in films, but while they feel unnecessary, they don’t halt the films brilliance or story in ways that could feel like a period in the middle of an incomplete sentence. Inarritu is looking at a career that will last as long he can do projects like this one. Imaginative storytelling with visuals unparalleled to any film you have likely seen, Alejandro Inarritu also does what the great directors can do, and that is get the best performances from their actors. Other great performances by the underrated young talent of our generation are that of Will Poulter and Domhnnall Gleeson who shine when they get on screen next to stars like DiCaprio and Hardy.
I will happily say that, though my expectations were high, I was more than pleased wit the finished product. Like a moving painting on a film canvas, The Revenant is the most brutal depiction of conditions that would make any of us today faint. A mountain man who realizes his purpose on this earth is what you come for and the visuals and performances are what you stay for. Still, the film is long at a whopping 2 hr. 36 min. but that is about three hours you won’t regret using to see this movie.