The Revenant (2015)
Extremely bleak, exceedingly brutal & exceptionally cold-blooded, The Revenant is that savage beast that charges at you with relentless fury, mauls you from head to toe without mercy, and leaves you utterly bruised, broken & helpless in the freezing cold of a harsh winter. Absolutely uncompromising with its content, unflinchingly raw in its depiction, and pushing its cast & crew to their limit, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s latest is one of the most harrowing films ever made.
Inspired by true events & based on the novel of the same name, the story of The Revenant takes place in the 1820s and follows Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who, during the expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, gets viciously attacked by a bear and is left for dead by members of his hunting team. In an effort to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief & extreme winter conditions in order to bring vengeance upon those who betrayed him & also murdered his son.
Co-written & directed by Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu who’s distinguished for his ruthless, evocative style of filmmaking, bleak subject matters, and themes relating to death, loss & redemption, The Revenant exhibits all these trademarks and is quite possibly his most distressing film to date for Iñárritu here aims to capture the pain & suffering in the harshest of conditions in the most unforgivable manner possible, and delivers a cinema that’s undeniably difficult to endure but also hard to look away from.
The script packs in an icy cold revenge dish set against the backdrop of remorseless surroundings in an era marred with conflict, carnage & cruelty. The punishing cold, desolate locations & lack of civilisation brings an authenticity of its own. The whole film is shot using only natural light and with Emmanuel Lubezki behind the camera, each frame is crisply photographed, the cold colour palette is brilliantly utilised, and there are several long takes that make you wonder how those sequences were filmed with such effectiveness.
Clocking in at 156 minutes, The Revenant is a long film to sit through but the drama manages to be so absorbing that its lengthy runtime is barely felt. The slow pace allows it to be a more immersive experience, and also helping the ordeal is its arresting cinematography which works in contrast with the unadulterated brutality that’s on display here. The background score is mesmerising and emits a sense of warmth but it makes its presence felt only intermittently. However, those flashback scenes don’t add much to the story and should’ve been left out.
Coming to the performances, The Revenant features an excellent cast in Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson & Will Poulter, and this is one aspect that plays to Iñárritu’s strengths as a filmmaker. DiCaprio delivers a powerhouse performance that makes the viewers feel every bit of agony his character undergoes in what is, without a shadow of a doubt, his toughest on-screen work to date as this actor gives his all to play his role from inside out. Hardy is no slouch in his supporting role and plays the antagonist with great restraint, while Gleeson & others do well with what they are given.
On an overall scale, The Revenant is another gritty, unrelenting & audacious piece of filmmaking from Alejandro G. Iñárritu that finds the director in sublime form and also happens to be his most direct & accessible film to date. Definitely not for the easily distressed, this thrilling story of survival & retribution is destined to upset many viewers with its graphic nature of storytelling but for those who can manage to stay on board, it will be rewarding on more levels than one. Marking another artistic high for both Iñárritu & Lubezki and catapulted to a greater level by DiCaprio’s extraordinary performance, The Revenant is one of the finest films of 2015 and certainly one of the proudest in the careers of its cast & crew. Strongly recommended.