The Revenant is A Bold Cinematic Experience
If you’ve ever been lost in a forest, or attacked by an animal, or camped in the rain, you still would have no idea what it would be like to be Hugh Glass in The Revenant. The epic movie is about the American frontiersman and his fur trapper compatriots as they fight to survive against the wilderness, the natives, and eachother.
Leonardo Dicaprio delivers one of the best performances of his career as Hugh Glass. After being shot at by natives, mauled by a bear, buried alive and surviving about a million other life-threatening crises, Glass struggles through the harsh, frontier wilderness all in hopes to avenge his son’s death. The Oscar-winning performance has less to do with thought-provoking dialogue than it does physical punishment (eg. Sleeping in a dead horse; eating a raw bison liver were things Leo actually did IRL), but don’t expect a quiet film. This movie pivots around action, violence, and above all, an unstoppable will to survive in the harsh winter wilderness.
Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Consequently, the real star of the movie is not Leonardo Dicaprio, but the landscape of western Canada where the movie was primarily filmed. Shot in all natural light, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki shows off his skills with sweeping wide shots of the mountain ranges and dense forestry of British Columbia and Alberta. The outcome is a visceral experience of nature, caught in all its severe, overpowering glory.
One thing I really loved about this film was Iñárritu’s use of the faux one-shot scenes. He did this with his Oscar-winning movie Birdman as well, and it works even better in the context of this movie. When you have a battle scene that rages on from one wounded soldier to another, then the camera whips you around to a man riding a horse with an arrow in his back, then focusses on a tree collapsing, then the men running to a boat in the water, it grabs hold of you and places you in the center of the action. It raises the tension by giving the illusion that there is an entire battle going on around you even though you can only see one viewpoint at a time.
Now to be honest, I have a few qualms about the movie that I just have to get out. For one, it’s REALLY long. That’s fine of course—movies can be long and you barely notice because you’re so engrossed in the plot. I think what makes The Revenant feel as long as it is, is because you aren’t ever given a break from the dismal, wildness of it all. It’s a constant struggle that we’re forced to live through alongside Glass, and it’s both something that makes the film great and exhausting at the same time. So brace yourself for that.
Something else I’ve always hated about Hollywood is their underestimation of how powerful the cold is. Where is the hypothermia!? Nevermind strolling through an icy river and then directly into the snow, or slogging through the rain in the winter, or laying on the cold ground for hours in the winter wind—Leo actually wades around in a freezing-cold river for many minutes on end without much fuss about it! I shook my head at that scene. As someone who’s been in a BC river in the middle of winter and lasted a good three seconds, there’s no way he’s not getting hypothermia after that.
Anyway, my griping aside, and all things considered, the movie is astounding. There’s no getting around that fact. It attacks your soul with both its gruesome attacks (by both human and bear), but then reminds you of the power of nature with its beautiful backdrop (thanks to Canada). If you’re a nature lover, and can take the time to watch it, definitely check out The Revenant.
The Revenant is on Execulink’s VOD channel (ch. 100) from April 19th- August 31st, 2016.