Who knew that the most visceral and brutal film of the year, would also be the most beautiful.
After the critical and box office success last year Alejandro González Iñárritu is already in the run for this year awards season after it smashed the Golden globes last week by winning both best film (Drama), Lead actor (Dicaprio) and Director. Yet again written and directed by Iñárritu, The Revenant tells a folk lore story about frontiersman Hugh Glass who is mauled by a bear and left for dead by his fellow men. Glass now being held together by stiches must utilize his survival skills and attempt to find his way back to his men for redemption.
Iñárritu teamed up the cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki for the 2nd time after working with each other on Birdman and Lubezki winning best cinematographer for the 2nd year running for his unique work behind the camera with Alejandro. And this year he may be setting records with his 3rd consecutive win because the Revenant maybe his finest work to date. Shot entirely using only natural light is a feat by its self but throwing in the Lubezki style which means shots which never seem to cut and camera work which glides around beautifully creates one gorgeous looking film.
For instance, the opening shot to The Revenant is one of the most incredible and seamlessly crafted scenes ever to be put to screen, and frankly I have no idea how they accomplished filming it. It’s a 20 minute long attack on Hugh Glass’s frontiersman by the American native’s, characters are being shot at, gutted and set a flame endlessly whilst the camera swiftly glides around trees and even goes underwater for a short period of time. During this we are given no real introduction to any of the characters yet their actions and mannerisms speak for themselves because of the raw physicality in this film.
It is scenes like this where not only the cinematography thrives but Iñárritu’s direction is also at its best and goes on to prove that he is a real force in the industry when it comes to directing both unique and nuance movies, which is why he is one of my favourite filmmakers working today.
There has been lots of fuss in the media about the extremes Leonardo Dicaprio went through to display his character Hugh Glass whilst filming for The Revenant, all of which is well-deserved attention as this is his most unique and personally my favourite performance from him to date. There is a very limited amount of dialogue from Dicaprio most of which is either in a foreign language or grunting, however this allows Dicaprio to display a completely physical and undoubtedly brilliant performance. Tom Hardy also deserves an honourable mention for his portrayal of the vile human being who leaves Glass for dead and only suffers from inaudible mumbling a few times!
A perfect blend between large uses of practical effects and CGI used very sparingly creates a much more realistic and human feel and when CGI is used it is to great effect as seen in the bear mauling scene which is a real accomplishment in filmmaking. Although it is the practical effects and make-up which really make this film stand out, the state of Glass’s body after the bear attack is quite horrific and creates quite an uncomfortable viewing experience.
The only problem I have with The Revenant is that sometimes the visions/dreams that Glass experiences took me out of the visceral brutality that Glass himself experiences. However, this may just be my subjective opinion as I always tend to perceive dream sequences as some sort of cop out or being pretentious. But the fact that I had to nit-pick a problem like that really proves how brilliant this is film is.
The Revenant is a masterfully crafted piece of cinema with fantastic direction and cinematography, and a performance by Leo which may finally see him win his Oscar.