The Revenant, 2015.
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson.
A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820’s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.
Cinema can be a beguiling, beautiful thing for those who love its wonderful ability to help transport us to brave new world’s and the furthest reaches of our imagination. And once in a blue moon, there is one such film that not only takes us to such places, but captivates us, transfixes us on its astounding facets that we forget our most basic things, like breathing. And, if like many, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant has some such an effect on you then its spell has worked.
Quite simply, The Revenant is one of the most astounding films you will ever have the privilege of watching: unlike anything you have witnessed before, Iñárritu’s latest will beat you to within an inch of your life with its uncompromising vision of one man’s determination to survive despite increasingly insurmountable odds, but still manage to create such wonder and grace that celebrates and cherishes the life that we hold most dear. Long shoots, natural lighting, firings aplenty, cast members wondering what they hell they had let themselves in for as they battle the elements, all things that may otherwise derail the making of a film have some aligned perfectly to create a visceral experience that will be with you for days, weeks and months after your first taste of it. Before, of course, you end up wanting more.
Where to begin with such a stupendous, wondrous creation: after refining his skills on last year’s equally brilliant Birdman, a kind of warm-up for what The Revenant has become, Iñárritu has continued to embrace both the long takes and the piercing close-up as his ultimate tools, both of which amongst his other wonderful creation settle you deep into the 1820’s frontiers along with his cast as you feel every ounce of the blood, sweat and tears that unravel on-screen. It’s unrelenting and brutal throughout with many a moment to make even the sternest of viewers wince and gasp, but such is its power and indeed beauty that it’s impossible not to get swept along with it. Supporting Iñárritu is the superb work of co-writer Mark L. Smith, photographer Emmanuel Lubezki, designer Jack Fisk and the luscious score from Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bryce Dessner and Carsten Nicolai, adding to the luscious surroundings and profound images that enconse the screen, fully immersing themselves in Iñárritu’s vision.
Much too has been made about the performance of DiCaprio: always the Bridesmaid, never the Bride at the most prestigious of award ceremonies, with that elusive Oscar still remains just out of his reach. Many have said that The Revenant may be his Scent of a Woman, a film which while featuring a usual bravado performance might be the one he wins for such because he deserved one years ago. Foolhardy. DiCaprio should and will win the Best Actor this year because he is fully and utterly deserving of it. The unwavering commitment to this role, this film and his imaginative director is stunning, out doing himself once again with a performance that is by turns thoughtful, brave, heartfelt and unstoppable. Ably supported by the brilliance of Tom Hardy, as well as the continued rise to prominence of Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson, Iñárritu’s casting across the board is like his film: precise and impeccable.
The less said about the plot of The Revenant the better, for while it’s story of the power of the human spirit (and yes even pissed off bears, the most savage of all the sequences here that needs to be seen to be believed) is timeless and enduring, this is a film that needs to be experienced without any preconceived notions or ideas. You may know the basics, but the more limited your “spoilers” the more rewarding and powerful this juggernaut of a film will be. A triumph of craft, patience and ingenuity, The Revenant is an astonishing achievement, one that will live on for many wintry days to come. Simply magnificent.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Scott J. Davis is Senior Staff Writer for Flickering Myth and co-host & editor of The Flickering Myth Review Podcast. Follow him on Twitter.