Far too rare is it that a film of this caliber comes along. Even in the midst of awards season a film like this stands above the rest as a testament to true craftsmanship and perseverance despite budget issues, time constraints and grueling filming locations. The Revenant is a film that will be admired from both a story and technical standpoint for years to come. From the long, single takes and the profoundly vibrant visuals utilized through completely natural lighting to the astounding performances by DiCaprio and cast, The Revenant is more than a film, it is a transcendent experience.
The visual splendor showcased in the brutally barren and rural setting that the characters find themselves trapped in is unlike anything you have ever witnessed. So much of this film was famously shot in locations that took hours to reach. With temperatures hitting double negative digits the cast immersed themselves into the unforgiving but undeniably breathtaking landscape to bring the world something truly special. The cinematography in this magnum opus has this ability to create something so organic that it feels as though you are simply there. In certain moments we sit back and watch and take all the beauty in. Other times the camera puts the visuals directly in the face of its audience creating visceral moments of unimaginable violence that will most certainly make the audience cringe and hide their eyes.
All the visual grandeur here is without purpose if the cast thrown into this world is not up to the remorseless conditions that such an environment possesses. Of course with actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy helming this adventure epic the film is, needless to say, in great hands. They deliver emphatically bloodthirsty performances that make you feel the freeze in their lungs and the grit in their frontier-worn teeth. This is a film about the ruthlessness of man caught in an environment just as deadly as they are. This world, with all of its raw power from the characters to the frozen wilds would not have been possible without the captain to steer the ship and that talented and highly ambitious man’s name is Alejandro González Iñárritu. The same man that brought us one of the most astounding pieces of cinema in the history of filmdom, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), brings us yet another awe-inspiring character driven adventure with The Revenant.
This is the kind of film that reminds the world that talent still exists among all of the remakes and CGI messes that seem to be enveloping the dying art of actual storytelling for a more marketable and thoughtless medium; I call these tragedies the Michael Bay Effect. A strong story is and always will be the most important element of a great film. Without motivation the characters have no reason for action. Without proper conflict whether it be a human villain or a seemingly insurmountable landscape to hinder the protagonist the very existence of the film is questionable. There needs to be a catalyst caused by the antagonist that is not only convincing but somehow evokes emotions of relatability and detestability all at the very same moment. You must find a connection and then hate them for it. With harsh elements in numerous forms surrounding them, a tale of revenge becomes all the more harrowing and dubious at best.
At its core, The Revenant is a simple enough story about betrayal and the unbelievable need for vengeance against those that committed acts of wrongdoings. But more than this it’s about man’s strength and his sheer determination to continue on despite everything in his way screaming for him to simply lie down and die. “As long as you can capture another breath… keep fighting.” Glass (DiCaprio) recites these words as he pulls his battle worn remains through snow and blood to his ultimate but possibly misguided goal of revenge against the man that took everything from him and left him to die on top of it. Misguided, maybe; commendable… certainly.
This is a journey for character and audience alike because by the fade to black you will feel tired (in a good way) and emotional about what you have just experienced. Something this story conveys powerfully through the screen is the question of revenge being worth the tribulations faced to reach that inevitably gruesome encounter. I can’t say whether he finds the man responsible for his pain but I can say that by the film’s end, everything he went through regardless of reaching his ultimate goal, makes you wonder that if his so-called victory is complete will the aftermath that is emptiness soothe him or crush him into ambiguity.
I have seen The Hateful Eight and Joy and several other Oscar contenders but for all the mulling over, The Revenant is unquestionably my pick for best film of the year. If you can stomach realistic, in-your-face violence then I can’t recommend enough that you give this epic a chance. It wowed me every step of the way and even now, looking back on it, I still have a giddy sort of grin on my face.
Rated R For: strong frontier combat violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity
Runtime: 156 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Western
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter
Directed By: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls
Check out the trailer below:
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