Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, widely praised for his work in the movie Birdman last year, once again exceeds everyone’s expectations in his new film The Revenant, first screened on December 25th, 2015. This film was not only a milestone for Iñárritu, who was the first person in over 60 years to win an Academy Award for Best Director for two consecutive years, but also for star Leonardo Dicaprio, who received his first Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role (and a standing ovation) after his brilliant performance.
The film is set in the 1820s and is inspired by The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke, a book loosely based on the real story of Hugh Glass, an American fur trapper. This intense and violent movie follows the legendary story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) after he is attacked by a bear and eventually left for dead by his companions. The audience gets not only to witness but to feel the frontiersman’s agony and his painful struggle to escape death in an attempt to get revenge on scoundrel John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) for killing his Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck).
The Revenant is a movie that combines moving scenes with gory and brutal ones, not failing to keep audiences on the edge of their seats throughout the entire 156 minutes of film. They will find themselves feeling Glass’ distress and keeping their eyes wide open as Fitzgerald threatens to kill Glass if he blinks. The costume design and make up play a huge role in this excruciating portrayal and resulted in the film obtaining Academy Award nominations on both categories. The most outstanding aspect of this movie, however, has to be the cinematography. The fight scenes feel real and agonising because of the long takes. The opening raid scene is particularly intense as the long shots follow a person until they are killed and then follow their attacker until they die as well. Another astonishing fact is that most of the film was shot using only natural light while capturing the most breathtaking landscapes in Canada and Argentina. The Revenant thus received an Academy Award for its stunning cinematography.
Another widely discussed aspect of this movie is the excellent performances of the actors, especially concerning now-Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio’s efforts to capture the torture and struggle that Hugh Glass goes through are exceptional. It is incredibly exhausting just to watch his character attempting with all his might to survive and crawl his way back for revenge, not to mention sleeping in an animal carcass and eating raw bison liver. The latter was actually consumed by DiCaprio and his reaction was genuine.
An aspect of this movie that is important to discuss is the portrayal of the Native Americans, which was arguably quite positive. On one hand, Pawnees are often portrayed only as extremely violent or sad, while this film put a human face on them when showing the relationship between Glass and the Native American man that helped him. On the other hand, this movie did not only portray the Natives as savages. Instead, both the human and the brutal sides of the whites and the Natives were shown in a somewhat equal measure.
The film is overall quite fantastic, especially when it comes to the acting and the cinematography. While the plot might be a little basic, it is nonetheless intense, suspenseful and painful. It is definitely worth the watch, although those that do not enjoy films with an alarming amount of blood, gore and violence might want to avoid it.