There has been a considerable amount of hype around The Revenant. The ‘Oscar Buzz’ has been deafening mostly due to the chance that Leonardo DiCaprio might finally win that Oscar that seems to trail his performances. However, The Revenant deserves to be seen outside of the glitz and prestige of Hollywood acclaim.
This is not a film just made for the Oscars nor should it be remembered as that film that got DiCaprio his Oscar (if this does happen). The Revenant is an experience within a film. Cold, bleak, desolate and painful, it is an overwhelming assault on the senses. Based on true events, The Revenant follows the unbelievable story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) a fur trapper in the wilderness of early 19th Century America. After suffering a savage attack, Glass comes back from the brink of death only to be confronted with more suffering and pain.
Fuelled by vengeance and grief, Glass does anything he can to survive and restore justice. To say this film is enjoyable would be seriously misleading. You will not enjoy watching this film, but I mean this in the best way possible.
The Revenant is suffocating, intense, horrific and sometimes unbearably savage. A particular example of this, and a scene which in itself has caused a stir, is the bear attack. When you’re watching it, you yourself are experiencing some of the horror that is so starkly put upon the screen. The sound and feel of the bear on Glass is transferred to the audience. The extremely close and low shots make you feel the suffocating weight of the bear pushing Glass into the earth. Due to Alejandro Iñárritu’s directing and Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, the filming is attentive and impactful.
It’s impossible not to mention DiCaprio’s performance. If there is a performance that deserves to be labelled his best it is, in my opinion, this one. He encapsulates not just his role but the entire mood and feeling of the film. The intensity and desperation he builds through physicality and expression alone is unlike anything he’s done before. There is nothing for him to hide behind, he just exudes raw and bare emotion creating a character stripped back to his very core.
Despite, this DiCaprio does not make this film, he is not the only reason why this film is impressive. His character is a solitary figure on the vast landscape that is Iñárritu’s vision. Iñárritu presents a visual sensation on screen that is full of astonishing contrasts. The barren and savage wilderness in which Glass navigates is hell to the body but heaven to the soul.
There are these moments of grotesque and violent physicality, such as when Glass butchers a horse in order to stay warm. While at the same time there are scenes of spiritual beauty and harmony between man and nature, such as Glass’s flashbacks and visions. The Revenant is not an easy watch but is a powerful and impressive piece of cinema. Oscar or none, The Revenant will leave its bloody and harrowing mark.