The legend of American fur trapper and frontiersman, Hugh Glass, manifests onto our screens in Alejandro G. Inarritu’s, The Revenant. After having been attacked by a Native American tribe, the pursuit for survival is disrupted when Glass is mauled by a bear and left for dead.
Inarritu transforms the mythology of the American frontier into a breath-taking experience that immerses the viewer into a cold, merciless world that explores the dynamics between life and death. A true story that is also based on the novel, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, we follow a group of fur traders that includes John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), Andrew Henry (Domhall Gleeson) and the hero of the tale, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio). DiCaprio produces another electrifying and Oscar-worthy performance, and his ability to transform into diverse, conflicted characters elevates to new heights in The Revenant. Even with little dialogue, DiCaprio still manages to deliver amazing acting. Not only are the performances sublime, but the cinematic direction undertaken by Inarritu is impressive. The film was shot on various locations in natural light, and the rigorous conditions are clear to see. What makes the film particularly enthralling is how reportedly difficult the film was to shoot, due to filming in various locations and in freezing cold conditions.
However, The Revenant provides the audience with hypnotic entertainment from the very beginning. The film opens with Hugh Glass and his son, Hawk, hunting in the wilderness just outside their camp. The viewer is immersed into an entrancing shot of a waterlogged forest, just before Glass and his hunting party are ambushed by a tribe of Native Americans. The sheer violence and death is ferocious, but this forms the beginning of Glass and his men’s quest for survival. When Glass is separated from the rest of the group, he crosses paths with a grizzly bear in which it ruthlessly attacks him, leaving him mortally wounded. Close to death and unable to speak, Glass is buried alive by fellow huntsman, Fitzgerald and Bridger. Consequently, we watch as Glass attempts the impossible and crawls his way thousands of miles in pursuit of salvation.
As Glass battles the subconscious images of his past, eating whatever he can to survive, and searching for the men that left him for dead, we are really submerged into his struggles. Not only does Inarritu construct such a powerful journey, but he explores significant issues, most clearly that of revenge. The Revenant is so endearing because of the film’s overriding themes of survival and overcoming adversity. Also, our captivation in the narrative is perhaps not so much a result of the characters themselves, but the journeys they take and decisions they make. Tom Hardy’s depiction as the menacing John Fitzgerald is also one of film’s high points and his conflicted relationship with both the young Jim Bridger and Glass, is incredibly engaging.
Sublime cinematography compromised with an emotionally driven narrative, and DiCaprio providing a transcendent performance, this two and a half hour epic is sure to storm the Academy Awards. The Revenant may not be regarded as a classic, but it could potentially go onto be one of the best films of 2016.
By Liam Springate-Jones