The Revenant

Someone give that bear an Oscar!! Academy Award nominee Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter star in Oscar winner Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant.

The RevenantCast of Characters:
Hugh Glass – Leonardo DiCaprio
John Fitzgerald – Tom Hardy
Capt. Andrew Henry – Domhnall Gleeson
Jim Bridger – Will Poulter
Hawk – Forrest Goodluck
Elk Dog – Duane Howard
Hikuc – Arthur Redcloud

Director – Alejandro G. Inarritu
Screenplay – Mark L. Smith & Alejandro G. Inarritu
Based on the novel The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke
Producer – Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, David Kanter, Alejandro G. Inarritu, Mary Parent, James W. Skotchdopole & Keith Redmon
Rated R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity

In 1823, while leading a group of trappers and hunters to safety after their expedition is ambushed by the Arikara Indians, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is mauled and seriously wounded by a grizzly bear, and though he’s able to kill the bear, the other members of his party believe his injuries are far too much to overcome. Their commander, Capt. Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) decides to move on, but orders three men – Glass’s half-Pawnee Indian son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) – to stay behind to take care of Glass while he’s alive and give him a proper burial the moment he dies.

Not long after Henry and the rest of the party have departed, Fitzgerald determines the best course of action is to put Glass out of his misery, but when Hawk objects, Fitzgerald stabs him to death and buries Glass alive. He and a reluctant Bridger leave the two behind, but Glass isn’t dead yet, and after arduously nursing himself back to health, begins the long trek back back to his party’s camp to avenge his son’s death.

If the styles of both Terrence Malick and Sam Peckinpah merged and had a baby, you’d probably wind up with something along the lines of Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant.

Coming off a Oscar hat-trick that included Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture for Birdman, even an idiot could tell you that Inarritu has set the bar fairly for himself, a bar that was already pretty high to begin with when you look back at his impressive career. This time, however, Inarritu’s dropping the fantastical world of Birdman in favor for a return to what he does best – reveling in humanity’s misery.

Based on Michael Punke’s novel The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, a fictionalized account of real-life frontiersman Hugh Glass, The Revenant (which refers to an animated corpse that has returned from the grave to terrorize the living) is both a cold, stripped down, bare bones tale of revenge and a stark, somber battle that pits man against the wild. In a year that has given us its share of man vs. nature conflicts (The Martian, Everest and In the Heart of the Sea), The Revenant sits at the top of the pack as the most brutal and mesmerizing.

Relentless would be the best word to describe this film. The violent attack DiCaprio faces at the hands of a pissed off mama grizzly bear alone is enough to pummel you into submission, and fair warning to the faint-hearted: The sequence, in all its bloody intensity, rarely, if ever, cuts away.

As somber and bleak a tone as the one Inarritu establishes here, this is still one of the most gorgeous looking bleak films you’ll see this year. Back-to-back Oscar winner, and go-to DP for Inarritu, Alfonso Cuaron and Terrence Malick, Emmanuel Lubezki has a strong shot at earning a three-peat for Best Cinematography. Using all-natural lighting sources, Lubezki paints a backdrop that is so forbidding you can nearly feel the chill of the frigid backcountry Glass treks through. It’s a harsh world he and Inarritu have created, but there’s also a dreamlike quality to the picture that makes The Revenant’s gray nightmare strikingly beautiful.

At times, Inarritu gets a tad caught up in some dream symbolism when the power of this film lies more in Glass’s treacherous odyssey. That minor quibble aside, Inarritu continues to think outside the box as a filmmaker, and once again proves why he’s one of the most visionary directors of the 21st century. Between the natural lighting and harsh environments this was filmed under, Inarritu delivers a marvel of taut storytelling and technical mastery that places the viewers alongside Glass on his quest to exact revenge (though it doesn’t go as far as duplicate the “one-shot” technique in Birdman, Lubezki’s long, sweeping takes add to the film’s realism).

Throughout his career, Leonardo DiCaprio has not been one to shy away from challenging roles. Be it the mentally retarded Arnie Grape, the heroin-addicted Jim Carroll, Howard Hughes or the charming yet sadistic slave owner Calvin J. Candie, DiCaprio has taken on characters that required intense commitment, but his physically demanding turn here as Hugh Glass is him at his rawest and most intense. Even when he’s rendered either immobile or speechless for a good portion of the film, the fierceness in DiCaprio’s performance is captivating. The ragged, dirtied wilderness man we see onscreen is a far distant cry from the pretty-boy heartthrob we once saw in Titanic and Romeo + Juliet.

Tom Hardy continues his impressive run of strong performances (Locke, The Drop, Mad Max: Fury Road, and if we’re going strictly by just performances and not the overall film, Legend) with a coldly intimidating turn as the self-serving antagonist John Fitzgerald (Hardy has a better shot at landing a Best Supporting Actor nod for this role than a Best Actor nod for Legend). Will Poulter, known mainly for We’re the Millers and The Maze Runner, delivers fine work as the film’s moral compass who struggles greatly over what he’s been a part of in regard to Glass. Domhnall Gleeson, recently seen chewing up the scenery quite horribly in The Force Awakens, is put to better use here in a much more subdued role.

Cold, bleak and haunting, The Revenant has Alejandro G. Inarritu following up his Oscar-winning Birdman in prime fashion, turning what pretty much boils down to a one journey revenge Western into a richly absorbing drama that is fueled by Leonardo DiCaprio’s sure to be Oscar-nominated performance and another superbly shot effort from DP extraordinaire Emmanuel Lubezki. It’s punishing atmosphere alone is enough to say that this isn’t for everyone, but those willing to embrace Inarritu’s grim adventure will find the visceral experience equally rewarding.

I give The Revenant an A (★★★½).

REVIEWS COMING LATER NEXT WEEK…

1/4/16        What the Hell Were They Thinking?!
1/5/16        Benjamin’s Stash
1/6/16        Top 10 Worst Films of 2015
1/8/16        The Forest

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