The Revenant (2015)
Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Revenant : noun : one that returns after death or a long absence.
The Revenant brings to life the story of Hugh Glass, an American frontiersman and fur trapper who, in the 1820s, was attacked by a grizzly bear and then left for dead, alone, in the wilderness of snow-covered Nebraska. When General Ashley's 1823 expedition, comprising of 45 men, is attacked by a band of vengeful Ree warriors [searching for their kidnapped princess] they're forced to end their excursion and make their way back to Fort Kiowa with the remaining band of nine men. As the group makes their way back, Glass gets up early one morning to forge a path, whereupon he's attacked by a mother grizzly bear and sustains apparently mortal wounds. Captain Henry makes the decision to leave him behind, offering a $100 bonus, each, to Fitzgerald, Bridger, and [Glass' son] Hawk to watch over him as he dies from his wounds and bury him. Fitzgerald doesn't want to risk his life any more than he sees fit and comes up with a plan, moral in his mind, to ease Glass' suffering so they can leave before the Ree warriors arrive. Lying to Bridger, about Ree warriors being nearby, to get his compliance, the pair leave Glass and Hawk behind. Glass doesn't succumb as expected, however, and braves the winter, the wild, and his wounds to get his revenge.
Iñárritu delivers what may be the most visually stunning movie I've ever seen. Emmanuel Lubezki has cemented his position as one of Hollywood's most profound cinematographers with his work in the recent award magnets Birdman, Gravity, The Tree of Life, and Children of Men but he really comes into his own with The Revenant. Rarely does an arthouse film or a movie with stunning visuals pack as strong a story, acting, directing, and everything else as the aesthetic, but this is a spectacular exception. The Revenant feels like a painting with the powerful look of the film, successfully combining utterly amazing photography and an epic soundtrack to create a cathartic mood that I've never experienced before. The swirling sympathy, sadness, hope, and anger swirl into a permanently thrilling story.
DiCaprio and Hardy deliver two of the most gut wrenching performances I've been lucky enough to witness. There's really nothing else to say, no complaints, just praise. The whole cast is amazing, transporting me almost 200 years into the past.
The story can be hard to stomach at times, often making me grimace and my palms sweaty. Iñárritu delivers a guttural movie, subtle in its storytelling but straightforward in its realism. Though some aspects, like Glass's horribly broken ankle healing perfectly by the end of the movie, can be seen as oversights or narrative freedoms the overarching tale is stupendous, with a surmounting tension that bleeds off the screen. The Revenant is not strictly a thriller, rather its a drama in a Western-themed story with thrilling elements. But never has a drama felt so thrilling, with subtle surges of adrenaline wrapped in beautiful, musical crescendos to match the slow, methodical camera work.
I used to think I'd never see a perfect movie, and then I saw Mad Max: Fury Road and thought that would be the closest thing to perfect. After seeing The Revenant, to which I've given a 1-point better score, I'm not so sure. Iñárritu's latest masterpiece may be my new perfect movie.
TL;DR: Every now and then a movie comes along that becomes an experience as you watch. The Revenant is like that. It's hard to describe in words just how good it is, and this review won't do it justice.
Grade A = 94 / 100
- Acting – 19 / 20
- Story – 18 / 20
- Cinematography – 20 / 20
- Soundtrack – 10 / 10
- Entertainment Factor – 9 / 10
- Drama/Thriller/Epic Western – 9 / 10
- Other – 9 / 10