The Revenant (2015)

by | Apr 16, 2024 | 2010s, Action, Film Reviews, Western | 0 comments

Release date: 5 February 2016 (South Africa)
Genre: Western/Action
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Cinematographer: Emmanuel Lubezki
Budget: $135 million USD
Box office: $533 million USD


“He’s afraid. He knows how far I came for him. Same as that elk, when they get afraid they run deep in to the woods. I got him trapped, he just, He doesn’t know it yet.” – Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio


A Relentless Brutal Beauty: A Look at “The Revenant”

In the unforgiving wilds of 1820s America, revenge becomes a primal instinct in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “The Revenant.” Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a powerful, near-silent performance as Hugh Glass, a frontiersman left for dead after a brutal bear attack. Driven by sheer will and a searing desire for vengeance, Glass embarks on an epic crawl through a frozen landscape, defying nature and human cruelty in a desperate bid for survival.


A Story Etched in Blood and Snow

The story itself is deceptively simple. There’s no grand mystery, no elaborate plot twists. “The Revenant” is a character study, a brutal ballet of man versus nature where the stakes are life and death. The film’s power lies in its relentless focus on Glass’s struggle. Every step, every agonising breath, is a testament to his unyielding will. There’s a stark beauty in this simplicity, a rawness that pulls you into Glass’s world, making you feel the sting of the cold, the terror of the unknown.


Filming in the Frigid Embrace of Reality

Adding to the film’s immersive quality is the dedication to realism in its production. Iñárritu and his crew famously shot the film chronologically in harsh natural conditions, using only natural light. This commitment to authenticity is evident in every frame. The breathtaking landscapes, filmed on location in Canada and Argentina, become characters themselves, their unforgiving beauty is a constant reminder of the power of nature.

Iñárritu’s decision to shoot chronologically wasn’t just a stylistic choice; it was a necessity. The harsh environments they filmed in—from the freezing plains of Alberta to the windswept mountains of Tierra del Fuego—dictated the pace of production. Imagine lugging heavy camera equipment across treacherous terrain, battling the elements just to capture that perfect shot at the precise moment the natural light allowed. This approach undoubtedly pushed the cast and crew to their limits, but it resulted in a film that feels authentic, raw, and utterly believable.


A Stellar Cast Braving the Elements

DiCaprio’s performance is nothing short of phenomenal. With minimal dialogue, he conveys a depth of emotion through grunts, pained expressions, and sheer physicality. His portrayal of Glass is a masterclass in physical acting. The audience witnesses the toll this brutal journey takes on him, from the initial mauling to the constant struggle for survival. We see the desperation in his eyes, the raw determination etched on his face. It’s a performance that deserves every bit of praise it’s received.

Tom Hardy delivers a counterpoint performance as John Fitzgerald, Glass’s betrayer, a man haunted by his actions. Hardy brings a quiet intensity to the role, his character burdened by guilt and a desperate need for redemption. The supporting cast, including Will Poulter as the conflicted young trapper Jim Bridger and Domhnall Gleeson as the resourceful frontiersman Andrew Henry, is equally impressive. They add weight and texture to the narrative, reminding us that Glass’s story unfolds within a larger world, filled with its own complexities and motivations.


Oscar Glory: A Recognition of Cinematic Excellence

“The Revenant” wasn’t just a critical darling; it was an awards season juggernaut. The film garnered twelve Academy Award nominations, the most of any film that year. This wasn’t just a recognition of DiCaprio’s long-overdue Best Actor win (though that was certainly a highlight). It was a celebration of the film’s technical mastery, its raw emotional power, and its ability to transport viewers to another time and place.

Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography deserves special mention. Shot entirely with natural light, his work is a marvel. The long, unbroken takes immerse you in the harsh beauty of the wilderness, while the close-ups on Glass’s face capture every flicker of emotion. The film’s score, composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carsten Nicolai, is a haunting soundscape that perfectly complements the visuals, adding to the film’s emotional impact.


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Box Office Success: A Tale of Survival Resonates

Despite its brutal nature, “The Revenant” resonated with audiences. The film became a box office success, grossing over $530 million USD worldwide. This proves that a film doesn’t need to shy away from harsh realities to find an audience. In fact, “The Revenant” reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit, its capacity for both great cruelty and remarkable endurance.


A Film That Sparks Conversation

“The Revenant” is a film that sparks conversation. It’s not a comfortable watch; it forces you to confront the brutality of nature and the darkness that can reside within humanity. But it’s also a film that celebrates the power of the human will. Glass’s relentless pursuit of survival, fueled by his primal need for vengeance, becomes a testament to his indomitable spirit. We may question his methods, be horrified by his rage, but there’s no denying the sheer willpower that keeps him pushing forward.


More Than Just Revenge: A Look at Morality and Forgiveness

“The Revenant” is more than just a revenge story. It’s a film that grapples with complex moral questions. Is vengeance ever truly justified? Can forgiveness exist in the face of such brutality? The film doesn’t offer easy answers. Through Glass’s journey, it compels us to confront these questions ourselves. Is John Fitzgerald, wracked with guilt and desperation for redemption, deserving of forgiveness? The film leaves that judgement call to the audience.


A Legacy of Cinematic Achievement

“The Revenant” is a landmark film. It’s a testament to the power of filmmaking to transport us to another world, to make us feel the sting of the cold, the fear of the unknown. It’s a film that will stay with you long after the credits roll, prompting reflection on the human spirit, the beauty and brutality of nature, and the enduring power of cinema.


A Must-See Experience, But Not for Everyone

However, “The Revenant” isn’t for everyone. The film’s unrelenting violence and harsh subject matter may be too much for some viewers. Those seeking a light-hearted escape from reality should probably look elsewhere. But for those willing to be challenged, “The Revenant” is a rewarding experience.


A Final Note: A Film that Demands to be Seen on the Big Screen

Finally, a word on how to best experience “The Revenant.” This is a film that demands to be seen on the big screen. The breathtaking cinematography, the immersive sound design—all these elements come together to create a truly cinematic experience. So, if you have the opportunity, find a theatre showing “The Revenant” and immerse yourself in this brutal yet beautiful odyssey.


My Rating: 10/10




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