- RatedM18 /GenreAction, Adventure
Imagine spending two-and-a-half hours watching a brutally injured man attempting to survive on his own in the harsh, wintry wilderness.
“Beautiful” would hardly be the word you would expect to describe such a film, even if the leading man is as easy on the eyes as Leonardo DiCaprio.
But ‘The Revenant’ truly is beautiful. Helmed by Alejandro G. Inarritu (whose work in ‘Birdman’ earned him the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director just last year), the film, which is based on a true story of sorts, is a fully immersive cinematic experience that is simply breath-taking to behold.
Indeed, ‘The Revenant’ seems to pride itself on being as gory and uncomfortable to watch as can be, but that is what makes Inarritu’s ability to turn the film into a stunning piece of art all the more impressive.
A GRIPPING EXPERIENCE
Fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is left severely injured and on the brink of death after being brutally attacked by a grizzly bear in the American wilderness.
Even though the group’s captain (Domhnall Gleeson) is determined to keep Glass alive, the sly John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) murders Glass’ son (Forrest Goodluck) and abandons the helplessly weak Glass for dead.
With revenge on his mind, Glass must rely on his determination and keen knowledge of the wilderness to stay alive, even if that means entering a gruelling slugfest with the extremely hostile environment – and many of its inhabitants.
To be honest, ‘The Revenant’ does not have much of a story to tell. One man’s injury, betrayal, attempt at survival and quest for revenge hardly seems like a story that can fill out a 156-minute run without seeming overstretched and tired out.
Indeed, the film would have felt very thin with such a lengthy screen time, except that ‘The Revenant’ is not trying to tell a story; its aim is to transport its audience into one.
Indeed, ‘The Revenant’ is less a compelling narrative and more a gripping experience. Thoroughly immersive, it plays to the senses with visually breath-taking shots and atmospheric sounds. The former is all the more impressive considering that the film was reportedly shot with only natural light.
Inarritu also incorporates plenty of the long takes featured in ‘Birdman’, creating a sense of real-time and limited perspective that allows his most exciting scenes to almost resemble first-person experiences. With these, Inarritu tosses his audience into the vast, harsh beauty of Glass’s world and the brutal events that unfold within it.
Even ‘The Revenant’s’ long screen time, which drives the audience to the brink of exhaustion, adds to the film’s ability to give viewers a taste of Glass’s gruelling journey and appreciate his unimaginable determination.
MAGNETIC LEADING MEN
Further drawing in viewers is, of course, the magnetic performances from its two lead actors. DiCaprio fills the screen with the same willpower that characterises his steadfast protagonist. Because Glass is more often than not without company, DiCaprio really shines in capturing Glass’s physical and emotional agony without any dialogue in these moments.
Whenever the film cuts away from Glass – no doubt much needed respites – the focus shifts to the antagonistic Fitzgerald, whom Hardy makes equally compelling with a stellar performance.
Hardy, who has picked up an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor alongside DiCaprio’s Best Actor nod, is quick to establish Fitzgerald’s repellent nature and maintains that spiteful aura throughout the film as an effective villain.
While brilliantly executed and well-acted, ‘The Revenant’ never quite crosses the line into greatness. Outside of it excelling as a cinematic experience, the film finds little inspiration elsewhere and is unlikely to genuinely impact its viewers besides leaving them with a better appreciation for warmer climates and a slightly sick feeling in weaker stomachs.
Regardless, ‘The Revenant’ excels precisely when it is being experienced on screen, holding its audience with an effectively uncomfortable grip as intense as that of a grizzly bear’s.