It’s hard to know where to start writing a review when the film is really powerful and influential. So let’s begin to talk about the story of Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s new masterpiece “The Revenant”, based on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. The film is set in the 19th century and tells the true story of the American legendary explorer Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) who was injured after having a horrifying encounter with a bear, and then was left all alone by two members of his own haunting team who were supposed to take care of him. They left him supposing that he won’t last long and that he will die immediately, but he didn’t. He crossed over 200 miles in very bad health conditions in order to return to his men, and especially to find the two who betrayed him and left him behind. Moreover, he wanted to take revenge of John Fitzgerald (Hardy) after seeing him kill his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) from his dead Indian wife.
The film presents a wide difference of opinions between the characters regarding the meaning of God and each one’s spirituality. For example, for Hugh Glass, it’s his wife and his son, but for John Fitzgerald, it’s the future in Texas. All of these interpretations and many others, not only for the American hunters, but also for the Indians, meet at only one point and one idea: what you believe in is what keeps you alive, nothing more. Although Glass is attached to his son, the film doesn’t show the relationship between them. DiCaprio also doesn’t have a lot of dialogue scenes, he talks a lot through his facial expressions, his body movement and the sounds of his screaming and heavy breathing.
Iñárritu succeeded once again in breaking the usual style of framing and camera movement: he kept the camera close to his actors and in a constant smooth but quick movement during the fight scenes, without following the style of a classical fight scene, maintaining the camera alive following the characters of the film in a lively way that makes the spectator feel like he’s completely involved in the scene. For 2 hours and a half, you’re freezing, you’re expecting an attack at any minute, your eyes are covering the whole place and sometimes you’re afraid that our legendary explorer Glass might die at any minute, as his path was full of fights and very tough situations.
What’s also impressive in the film is the sequence shots that dominate every scene, which brings us back to Iñárritu’s previous Academy Award-winning film Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance which is also based on consecutive sequence shots. Even the cinematographer of The Revenant, Emmanuel Lubezki, contributed a lot in making the film closer to reality by choosing to shoot the film with natural light, which made the schedule of the shooting very punctual and precise (also difficult in addition to the bad filming conditions in the snow) in order to catch the right mood and the amount of light needed for every scene.
In addition, DiCaprio was a very powerful stunt as he broke some of his lifetime rules to give the role all of his strength: he’s a vegetarian, but he ate real raw meat in the scene that shows Glass surviving from the liver of a wild bison. He actually slept naked in a horse’s carcass. And what could seem unbelievable is that Leonardo “was never injured for real during the shoot”, said the source itself.
Even Tom Hardy had a lot of stunts in the film but was actually concerned about his own safety, but then it all went well. All of the violent and fight scenes with all the characters of the film were perfectly shot, showing the reality without any addition that makes any of the situation unbelievable. The film shows the total realism of what a man does in the wild.
At last, we cannot forget to talk about the brilliant music score of the talented Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto in collaboration with musicians Bryce Dessner and Casten Nicolai. This amazing music mixed with the ambiance of the place captures the whole mood of the scenes and completes the process of “the spectator becoming part of the situation”.
The Revenant is already nominated for 4 Golden Globe Awards and is expected to be a very hard competitor at this year’s Academy Awards (facing Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Hooper’s The Danish Girl and Haynes’ Carol), meeting our expectations of seeing Leonardo DiCaprio grab his first Oscar at last!
In cinemas starting January 8, 2016
Post written by Nadine Asmar