The Revenant is about a group of fur trappers who are attacked by Native Americans. As the group of survivors is making their way through the Alaskan wilderness, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is attacked by a grizzly bear. A few members of the group agree to stay behind with him until he dies or gets well enough to continue. John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) stays but decides it’s best to leave him behind, so he kills Glass’ son, partially buries him and leaves him for dead. Glass slowly recovers his strength and attempts to make it back to the fort to exact revenge.
I don’t quite know how to approach reviewing this movie because I struggle to find a point of comparison. It is so different to any film I have ever seen. More than anything, it felt more real than anything I have ever seen. The movie’s continuous handheld shots are similar to the ones (or should I say one) director Alejandro González Iñárritu used in his previous film, Birdman. Directors often rely upon quick camera takes to make an action scene snappy and engaging. Iñárritu instead lets the action of the characters on screen make the scene engaging. The movement of the camera mimics the eye movements of an observer in the situation, making the viewer feel as if it is happening before their very eyes.
Along with the camera movement, the angles Iñárritu chose were fascinating. Often times the camera height would start off around waist height, or move almost uncomfortably close to the actors, especially for such a wide aspect ratio. This technique was especially successful during the scenes were Hugh Glass is injured and dragging himself on the ground because it helped to get the viewer inside his mind. It also made it harder to identify traditional shot categories (close-up, long shot, etc.) and blurred the line between them, which was interesting to see.
The acting, specifically of Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio, were a great compliment to the cinematography. It is more difficult when an actor has is as identifiable as either of these actors to convince the audience of your character. Both actors were convincing from the moment they came on screen. Tom Hardy played the perfect antagonist in this story. He was cruel, but not evil, and in that way added to the realism of the film.
If Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t get an Oscar for this movie, I don’t know what else he has to do. This could be the best performance of his outstanding career and I hope he gets the proper recognition.
Rarely does a film come along and seem as new as this one. They can often seem like an evolution from similar films in their genre, however, The Revenant is a different beast. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s refusal to follow all of the rules of traditional film makes him an innovator, and a breath of fresh air in a time where Hollywood is becoming increasingly formulaic.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%