Film Review: The Revenant

revenant-leoGaining copious amounts of publicity surrounding the hardship of its production, The Revenant has already built quite a reputation for itself, and is clearly a warm contender in the awards season this year. It is only natural, then, to have high expectations…

The film centres on a group of 19th century American fur trappers and the influence they have upon the ecosystems and communities that they exploit. There are few frontiers who act with sympathy towards the native people in this film; the central character Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), being one of them. But when a bear attacks Glass, however, he must survive in the very wilderness that he and his fellow men seek to tame. To describe the plot with more detail would become somewhat void; the narrative itself is not very complex yet remains phenomenal, basing itself around a real survival story. It is what immerses you within that narrative – the filmmaking itself – which makes this picture so impressive.

Meticulously crafted by all members of the cast and crew, The Revenant is both brutal and poetic. Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera choreography constantly holds your attention, keeping a deeply focused intensity when there are fifty people in the frame, and then intimately capturing the slightest character emotions a moment later. This cinematography is exactly one of the reasons that the film is so encapsulating. Along with the beautifully bleak scenery and outstanding acting talent of Tom Hardy (John Fitzgerald), Domhnall Gleeson (Captain Andrew Henry), Will Pouter (Bridger) and DiCaprio, it is the soundscape and costume design that really pushes this film into its own. Every beat of a hoof and every arrowhead is made all the more intense by its sound design, expertly constructed by Randy Thom. Adding Jacqueline West’s intricate and lush wardrobe design, The Revenant becomes essentially and viscerally immersive.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s direction is superb; there is no doubt that this is a film of real visionary talent. Though not quite gaining that distinctive depression that develops in 21 Grams (2003) and Babel (2006), The Revenant is an entirely different beast. It is a film that, despite its violence and bleakness, contains a genuine sense of unadulterated hope.

Although The Revenant continually tempts you into believing a false outcome, it is an incredibly full and extraordinary experience. Having dawned upon audiences around the awards season, it is often easy to forget about how truly staggering such a film can be as a text, blind to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.

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What did you think of The Revenant?

Comment with your thoughts.

– Ben Reynolds

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