Film Review: The Revenant


This year’s biggest Oscar contender, The Revenant, is based in part on Michael Punke‘s The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, which is inspired by the experiences of the legendary explorer, frontiersman and fur trapper, Hugh Glass, set in the 1820s. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, the film follows Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) on expedition with his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), and his hunting team – including Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) – when Hugh is brutally attacked by a bear. Left for dead, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption, in a quest to survive and seek revenge on the man to blame.

Since the release of the first trailer, I have been eager to see this film because of the strikingly beautiful visuals that have stood out from the very beginning. Even from these mere few minutes of footage, it was obvious that The Revenant was going to be something special. With cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, as well, who has won the Academy Award for the past two years with the films Birdman and Gravity, hopes were high that The Revenant wasn’t going to ruin his streak of success.

Iñárritu’s Birdman was a hit and miss film last year, which also won the Best Picture award, but with the same team behind it, The Revenant looked like it would appeal to a much bigger audience. With everybody crossing their fingers for this to be the film that would see Leonardo DiCaprio finally win an Award for himself, as well, there was much to look forward to with this release.

Nominated for 12 Academy Awards, The Revenant sure doesn’t disappoint. With some of the best visuals I have ever seen, it really is a masterpiece to watch. The angle of filming makes you feel amongst the group, seamlessly swerving to get you as close as possible to the intense action, and then there’s the stunning locations in the background. Filmed in Canada (although set in Montana and South Dakota), many of the locations are so picturesque that you wouldn’t believe them to be real. Many of us have never witnessed that amount of snow, and to imagine having to live under these conditions is quite overwhelming.

It’s amazing to think that this a true story. The story of Glass is remarkable and unimaginable to believe that one person could survive everything that he suffered. The struggle is real, and we feel every bit of his pain, but this does also lead to my only flaw with the film. Whilst The Revenant is undeniably beautifully filmed, there aren’t enough big events in the story to keep you fully engaged.

From the trailer, we all knew to expect DiCaprio to tackle a gigantic grizzly bear, which is done excellently, but other than that it was hard to tell where the story would go. Most of us didn’t realise that the story was about an explorer stumbling 200 miles after this attack and being left for dead, and whilst this is what makes the true story so powerful, it does slow the film down quite excessively.

This thin plot works both as both a quality and a flaw. The emptiness of some of the scenes really highlight DiCaprio’s loneliness, but they do often leave you anticipating for something more to happen. And as can only be expected, there’s not a whole lot of dialogue. But that’s what’s so fascinating thing about this film; Iñárritu doesn’t need dialogue to tell the story. The camera movements, beautiful backdrops, and phenomenal performances say enough on their own, and watching DiCaprio’s struggle is incredibly mesmerising.

The performances really are exceptional, too, with Hardy, Poulter, and Gleeson all giving it their all, as well. And if DiCaprio doesn’t win the Oscar this year, then something really isn’t right. But it’s not only their performances which are outstanding, it’s also the dedication that they gave to these roles. The conditions that they endured whilst filming is something worthy of an award itself. There were many stories about cast members quitting half way through filming because of the ice-cold temperatures on set, but we were obviously left with the best of them.

The Revenant may take up your whole afternoon, and at times you may feel like the story is on pause, but this is a film that needs to be seen in all its glory on the big screen. There’s no surprise that it’s winning most of the awards this year because every inch of it is filled with quality.

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