“The Revenant” is painful to watch. It’s gritty, heartbreaking, strenuous and cringe-worthy. But it’s also visually stunning, tells a fascinating and unique story, and is a fantastic movie overall.
“The Revenant” follows Hugh Glass, a frontiersman navigating through the American West with a band of fur-trappers. After sustaining nearly fatal wounds from a grizzly bear, Glass is left behind with his half-Pawnee son and another frontiersman John Fitzgerald, who soon abandons Glass and kills his son. The wounded Glass then treks through the West in search of revenge.
The film feels extremely real, which is both refreshing in an age of glossy movie explosions, but at times is almost too difficult to watch. Glass is savagely mauled by the grizzly bear three times over the course of five minutes. Dinner is raw meat from a bison. A bed is the hollowed-out carcass of horse. Fights are slow and brutal, with ears bitten and fingers chopped off. There is nothing sexy or romantic about the film. Everyone is dirty and unkempt. Rape, thievery, and murder are all on full display. The sheer callousness of the film leaves the audience gasping for breath in best way.
There are few major characters in “The Revenant.” Leonardo DiCaprio plays Glass, and Tom Hardy plays Fitzgerald. Domhnall Gleeson plays Andrew Henry, the captain of the fur-traders who gets tricked by Fitzgerald. Tom Hardy has a stand-out role in this movie. His dynamic portrayal of Fitzgerald crafts the character as a very real and selfish villain. DiCaprio has very few lines as he is alone for the majority of the movie. But the manner in which DiCaprio depicts the ordeals that his character goes through is tremendous; his role as Glass is a prime case for the old cliche that “actions speak louder than words.” Besides being mauled by a bear and watching his own son die in front of him, Glass falls into a waterfall, gets attacked by Pawnee tribesmen, and rides a horse off a cliff.
The cinematography in “The Revenant” is spectacular. The majority of the filming was done on location and with natural light. Embers sparkling up from a fire, mist rolling off mountaintops, and water flooding over forests are shot in such a beautiful manner that the audience feels like they are actually there. At some moments the film appears to be more of a nature documentary with some dirty frontiersmen thrown in. The beautiful surroundings create a juxtaposition of the horrors surrounding the men trying to survive in the 1820s American West.
Director Alejandro G. Inarritu, who had previously directed “Gravity” and “Birdman,” continues his theme of gorgeous filming, but with much more gruesome scenes than his other works. With a run-time of two and a half hours, the violence is certainly overbearing and exhausting at times. However, the film is far from boring. While long, Inarritu combines a historical film, a revenge plot, and a survival story all into one. Although not for the faint of heart, “The Revenant” is a compelling, one-of-a-kind and fantastic film that will surely win awards come Oscar season.