Movie Review: The Revenant

By Nate Willis, Entertainment Writer 

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Just one year after winning Oscars for both Best Director and Best Picture, Alejandro Iñárritu continues to push the boundaries of cinema with his latest feature, “The Revenant” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. DiCaprio plays the mythical 1800s fur-trapper Hugh Glass, who was actually mutilated in a bear attack and left for dead by his men. Beyond this fact, Iñárritu takes complete creative control. The acting was nothing short of extraordinary for DiCaprio, whose commitment and drive in this role elevate the film past what is otherwise a simple tale of revenge. Iñárritu also collaborated once more with two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who is regarded as one of the best in our time.

Leonardo DiCaprio has a history of playing emotionally tortured characters, which makes him the perfect actor to portray someone who has lost everything. Throughout the film, we witness DiCaprio’s character endure trial after trial as he crawls across the barren plains of Montana and South Dakota. To give an idea of how graphic Iñárritu makes this film, DiCaprio had to spend five hours every day getting fake bloody wounds applied to his body. It’s important to note that DiCaprio speaks maybe a dozen lines of dialogue in the whole film, due to his character’s throat being slit for the vast majority of it. This lack of dialogue forces DiCaprio to primarily act through physical actions, causing the audience to almost feel Glass’s physical and emotional pain.

Being a member of Iñárritu’s film crew doesn’t sound like an easy job. In “Birdman”, the cast had to do takes for scenes as long as 30 minutes, minimizing the number of cuts and raising the bar on the quality of actors needed. In “The Revenant”, the weather conditions were the primary obstacle. Filmed in the cold tundra of Alberta, the crew had to endure the same freezing conditions we as the audience witness the characters endure in the film. This forces a genuine pain from the actors, who didn’t have to act like they were freezing at all. On top of this, Iñárritu only uses natural light, homage to the golden age of films when that’s all they had to go off of. The results are simply spectacular, with wide vistas, towering trees, and several shots that make clouds look and feel like something more than accumulations of water vapor.

“The Revenant” has an overwhelming Malickian feel at times, driven by sadness, guilt, but most of all, revenge. However, this is still very much its own film. While it may flirt with the boundaries of boring, the natural focus and DiCaprio’s stellar performance keep the audience’s attention while preserving its zeal. Overall, I absolutely enjoyed this film. It’s well-acted, it possesses a reverence to the subject, and it looks at nature through a lens that only Lubezki could deliver. If you are a fan of Terrence Malick films, any of Iñárritu’s previous efforts, or vista shots present in classic westerns, then I would highly recommend this film.

Nate’s Netflix Picks:

  • Side Effects
  • The Ladykillers
  • Training Day