The Revenant - Review

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu has returned after the massive critical acclaim of 2014's Birdman with The Revenant, a story of revenge, loss, and survival. The Revenant lives up to the hype in every way, and delivers one of the most uniquely fantastic movie experiences of the year. 

Plot

The Revenant is based on the book of the same name by Michael Punke, written in 2002. It follows the tale of fur trapper Hugh Glass, and his band of trappers in the 1800s, after Glass is mauled by a bear and left for dead by his once trusted confidant, John Fitzgerald. The story remains fairly straight-forward, with the goal at the end being the same as the beginning: find John Fitzgerald, and kill him. This classic revenge set-up gives The Revenant the freedom to elaborate on so much more; location, characters, action, that plot often feels like a secondary goal. This perfect blend of constant tension for Glass's life left me on the edge of my seat for nearly the whole movie, as Glass moves from one insurmountable obstacle to the next. While there has been some controversy over the film's ending, I found it excellent, staying true to the themes and style of the movie, rather than showing a completely different reality with drastically changed characters like most modern epics do. Every once in a while, Glass will have a vision or flashback to help bring him out of a dire situation, usually involving his wife or son. These flashbacks left me a bit confused when they came up, as they never seemed to tie into what was happening right before. However, they do serve a good purpose, as a way to show us Glass's life before his attack, and to give us insight into his tortured mind.

Performances

A very talented cast populate The Revenant, including Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald, Domnhall Gleeson as Andrew Henry, and Will Poulter as Jim Bridger. DiCaprio and Hardy are the obvious stars, with the two playing polar opposites, as well as two friends turned bitter enemies. Domnhall Gleeson, who most recently played General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is given a surprising amount of screen time, and acts as a great supporting character to Glass, without feeling like the Government lackie like he easily could have been. Will Poulter, of mostly mediocre films, gives a surprisingly real performance as the forced confidant of John Fitzgerald, the man who left Glass to die. Playing the role of a younger man, he brings a great sense of reality into the movie, acting as the neive young man who still believes there is good in everybody. DiCaprio has the least amount of lines by far, which makes whenever he does talk feel like a special occasion. The lack of words of DiCaprio's character puts Leo in a place he's never been before, speechless. Every moment of the film, from a liver eating scene (that was a real buffalo liver!) to a near fatal cliff fall left me in awe as DiCaprio reacted purely through facial expressions and groans. Leo may not win the Oscar for his performance, but The Revenant is by far his biggest test as an actor, and he pulls it off better than any one else could. Tom Hardy is deliciously evil as Fitzgerald, but never feels comically evil. The final fight between the two feels like a fight between brothers turned enemies, with each landed hit serving as small revenge for a lifetime of wrong-doings. 

Style

The Revenant takes place in an uncharted wilderness, and never reveals exactly where that is, although the area is peppered with Americans, French, and Indians. Alejandro G. Iñárritu's now signature extended shot can be easily seen in The Revenant, particularly in the opening battle sequence. It truly feels like watching a painting being painted by a master, who just can't wait to show us how it's going to turn out. The snow filled valleys and frost-bitten trees are breathtaking, and the film never ceases to amaze with its environments. One of the most unique aspects of the film is that Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu used only natural light, no artificial light whatsoever. This elevates the film to a higher visual standard, earning itself a place among masterworks like Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, another film using only natural light. 

As this film is rated R, it should be said that there are quite a few f-words and other mild swearing, but most are muttered. Most of the R rating is put towards the realistic depiction of battles and situations, some of which are just too realistic for a pg-13 movie. If you were thinking about taking you're son or going with some bros to see The Revenant, this may be the perfect movie for you. 

Summary

The Revenant is a fantastic film by second time director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, and serves as a testament to spectacular acting, breathtaking locations, and a truly riveting story. The realism of the action and duration of camera shots also make this one of the most eye-catching films of the year, resulting in a film you just can't look away from.

Pros- Spectacular acting, inventive camera shots, realistic action

Cons- sometimes confusing dream sequences