I can’t say I was particularly happy walking out of the theater after seeing “The Revenant” and being greeted by cold winter weather, since the whole 156 minute runtime takes place in cold winter weather. Fortunately for me, though, the movie was really good.
The film is loosely based on the true story of a frontiersman named Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Glass is the navigator on a fur-trading expedition that goes awry when the group is attacked by Arikara Warriors. The problems increase for the expedition when Glass is attacked by a huge bear.
With resources dwindling, the captain of the voyage, played by Domhnall Gleeson agrees to leave the trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Glass’ son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) as well as a young adventurer named Bridger (Will Poulter) behind to take care of Glass. Wanting to escape the barren forest, though, Fitzgerald decides to leave Glass to die and when Hawk tries to protest he is killed. This leaves Glass having to fight to survive.
Director Alejandro Inarritu, who helmed last year’s Oscar winner “Birdman,” did a fantastic job in bringing the 1820s era on the frontier to life. The movie is an honest and brutal portrayal, especially as it follows Glass’ harrowing survival journey. It’s truly fascinating watching DiCaprio’s character have to fight both man and nature in order to get to a point where he can exact justice, at least it is for a while.
Although being a visual masterpiece and displaying a story of real grit, “The Revenant” does go on just a bit too long. At 156 minutes, there was definitely some moments that could have been trimmed, for example, there were a bit too many dream sequences. Additionally, for all of the film’s buildup over that long runtime, the ending could have been a bit more climactic.
With that said, the film does explore a lot of depth regarding vengeance and nature as well as showcase the true power of the human spirit. In the end, those aspects still create an effective piece of cinema.
As for the acting, DiCaprio likely gives the most raw and gritty performance of the year and of his entire career. Despite having very limited amounts of dialogue, DiCaprio still manages to deliver a tremendously powerful performance. His display of survival helps to make the movie even more convincing and the drive he shows through his performance is impactful.
The one who steals the show for much of the movie, though, is Hardy, who is nearly unrecognizable here. Hardy’s character is the main antagonist, and there’s no doubt that he’s a cold character, but the way he’s written doesn’t show him to be a monster, he’s just a man. Hardy knocks this out of the park, by portraying the character as a deeply flawed person through a fantastic subtle performance.
As previously stated, “The Revenant” is also a superb piece of filmmaking when it comes to the visual aspects. Much of the film was shot on location and there is a true sense of realism which makes it all the more immersive. The cinematography is also gorgeous, and it’s apparent right from the start as the film opens with a beautiful shot of a river. What’s captured through the camera is worth the price of admission alone.
While “The Revenant” certainly could have been trimmed, it’s still a fantastic overall film and a solid follow-up for Inarritu after last year’s successful outing with “Birdman.”