Through the film, Glass falls victim to a grizzly mauling, witnesses the brutal stabbing and death of his family, and survives a terrifying nosedive off a cliff whilst on horseback. And the list goes on. By definition, revenant means a visible ghost or animated corpse and this title hits the nail on the head, multiple times, until you're thinking, “Is this guy actually still alive?”
Set in a harsh natural environment filled with extreme violence, this grim tale is ironically complemented with some of the most beautiful cinematography you will see this year. The film is filled with luscious shots of snowy mountains, icy flowing rivers, and large forest beds that are poetic yet terrifying. The wide landscape shots intercut with intimate close-ups of the characters really highlight the David versus Goliath struggle that is man navigating the storm of Mother Nature. Shooting in isolated areas of Canada and Argentina with only natural light, by all accounts The Revenant must have been a challenging shoot. With so much of it feeling intimate and close, one can imagine director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki joining in on eating raw animal flesh and rolling down rough river rapids with the actors.
The performances are vital in ensuring this film feels real and these actors really come to the table. DiCaprio is as convincing as ever and spends a lot of the film crawling or being carried while still making for an engaging protagonist. Although nature could be described as the true villain of this piece, Tom Hardy plays Fitzgerald, the film’s primary antagonist. He is a nasty piece of work which seems more a result of his circumstance. Roughed by nature, greed and violence, Hardy delivers a character that is the antithesis of Hugh Glass. The Native American cast add a good contrast to Glass’ struggles. They too have their own quest, yet they seem to navigate the same terrain with much more ease. Some of these indigenous characters add to the ghost-like spiritual mysticism of the flick, making portions feel like a dark fairy tale.
With very little dialogue and even less music, The Revenant feels like an authentic experience. It travels you through the silent, harsh wilderness with Glass, letting you feel the weather as it changes — the snap of the cold rivers, the dew from the forest flora. By the film’s end, you feel as if you might have endured it yourself. Exhausting.
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