The Revenant is a thrilling story that is told in a way that forces the audience to fully participate. It is a fantastic cinematic experience in a stunning but hostile land. The tone of the movie is set early on as a group of fur trappers are assaulted by Native Americans, who slowly but brutally slaughter members of the group. The Native Americans are truthfully portrayed as the ‘white man’s’ enemy. Some men survive this attack by fleeing in a nearby boat. Amongst these men are Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). It is revealed that the Native American tribe was looking for their leader’s daughter who was kidnapped.
If you had heard of this movie prior to reading this, it is more than likely you have heard of the “bear scene” where Hugh Glass is mauled by a bear. This ‘bear scene’ was done using CGI, but it was, as one can only imagine, incredibly realistic. I was on the edge of my seat as I was pulled into this scene by the film’s cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki (Oscar winner as the cinematographer for Iñárritu’s Birdman). Glass had set out on his own as his group slept before this incident unfolded. The group later found Glass severely injured.
As the group struggle to carry and care for Hugh Glass, they decide that three members will stay with Glass and give him the burial he deserves; the deceitful John Fitzgerald, young Bridger (Will Poulter), and Hawk (Hugh Glass’s half Native American son). Yes, Will Poulter is the ‘eyebrow kid,’ but his acting is so good that you forget about those Jack Nicholson eyebrows of his. Fitzgerald betrays an immobile Glass who is then deserted and left to die. Revenge is the only thing pushing Glass to fight for survival in an unrelenting land while being tracked by its native people, who are unforgiving. The land itself is a being, a living character , and luckily for Glass he knows how to navigate it. Glass is not alone in seeking revenge, the journey of the Native Americans is a vengeful one also.
The characters, especially Hugh Glass, are shown to survive experiences you would have thought impossible. Yes some of those scenes can be unbelievable but since when does a movie have to present only the realistic? A small negative is that the movie could have been scaled down from its running time of 156-minutes as it feels stretched out and as though the focus has been forgotten at times.
Unsurprisingly, it won three Golden Globes: For Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (drama); for Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Best Director (motion picture); and for the whole cast and crew, Best Motion Picture (drama). I saw Birdman, also directed by Alejandro, last year and was excited by the experimental camera work of the seamless one shot long-take. The Revenant also managed to thrill with interesting camera work. The camera is close and constantly on the move tracking the characters. We as the audience are brought so close to the face of a character in a few instances that the character’s breath coats the camera lens with condensation.
I recommend you see this film even if you just go for the immersing winter landscapes to escape from Adelaide’s heat, but you will enjoy the ride, I promise you.
Words by Rhianna Carr.