********* 8 out of 10 *********
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson
If movies take you to places, then bring your warmest clothes along when you sit for a viewing of The Revenant. If movies introduce you to new people, then get ready to meet Mr Hugh Glass, an explorer and fur trader of the 19th century, whom you are bound to remember for a long long time. The Revenant is the kind of spectacle that reminds us as to why we watch movies after all. It is glorious in its drama, inspiring with its theme, fabulous in its performances, and shines in the snow-clad wilderness with the brightness that only Alejandro G. Iñárritu could have provided.
The Revenant is based on the true story of Hugh Glass who, after being almost mauled to death by a grizzly bear and left behind by his group of fur trappers, bravely attempted to survive on his own in the chilling weather and seek vengeance. Based on the novel of the same name written by Michael Punke, the movie does take a lot of liberties with the true story to achieve a more emotional cinematic tale. The biggest one being the presence of Hugh Glass’ son who, in reality, does not seem to have existed. But Alejandro G. Iñárritu is not treating this movie as a biopic; there is no exploration of Hugh Glass’ history before the expedition nor any thought given to his future. The Revenant is solely a narration of that inspiring journey which Hugh Glass undertook many decades back which deserves to be told on screen in some form or the other. It is an emotional ride which the director takes along with his audience in order to deliver exhilaration and fear of the kind we may otherwise never experience.
Based on the screenplay written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith, the movie is intense right from the beginning when the campsite of the fur trappers is attacked by Arikara Native Americans (captured with such clarity that reminded me of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan). Despite long single shots and periods without any dialogues, the movie does not slacken its pace nor its ability to keep you deeply involved. A big reason behind that is the cinematography of two-time Oscar winner (and eight-time nominee) Emmanuel Lubezki who worked previously with Alejandro G. Iñárritu in Birdman with equal distinction. Lubezki’s style of capturing moments is absolutely magical, and along with Alejandro G. Iñárritu, he paints the whole screen white that is alluring and terrifying at the same time. The scene with the bear attack is especially spell-binding as I do not remember any cuts in that shot, as if it was a feature of the National Geographic Channel.
While Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s invisible hand is clearly visible in almost every scene of The Revenant, there is one man on screen though doing justice to each moment. Leonardo DiCaprio. An actor who has come a long way since being the boy-faced lover of Titanic, DiCaprio delivers one of his best performances here. With hardly any words to speak, he lets every other part of his body do the talking. The eyes shine with the will-power of a man determined to survive while the body struggles with each step. The furrows in his brow deepen as the journey gets tougher but his fortitude never wavers. It’s the performance of an experienced actor who calls upon his years of learning to deliver the role that many feel would bag him an Academy Award after all. It will not be unjustified for sure! Tom Hardy, another actor with the skill to fit in any role, is exemplary as Fitzgerald, the man who leaves Hugh Glass behind. He is tough and mean, but with a shrewdness which makes him even more dangerous. Just like DiCaprio, Tom Hardy can carry an intensity in his eyes that make words an unnecessary tool to express his thoughts. His first Oscar nomination should mark the beginning of many more to come.
The Revenant carries a whole lot of other strong acting performances. Domhnall Gleeson is fantastic as the Captain of the expedition team, a good man whose soul is burdened with the weight of losing Hugh Glass. Young Will Poulter, whom we remember from young-adult themed movies like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Maze Runner, puts in a mature performance as Bridger, another fellow burdened with leaving Glass behind. A brief part for Arthur Redcloud as the Native American who helps Glass during his journey is also worth noting, especially when you consider he had to take time off from his job as a fuel delivery driver!
The Revenant is Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s first venture into a bigger budget film, a budget which notoriously spiraled further upwards. But here too he has masterfully created an emotionally powerful experience, scaling it too another level thanks to the bigger budget allocated to him. With top-notch performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and the others, along with the skillful cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant is a spectacle not to be missed.