Man pitted against the elements for the sake of his survival, his family honor, and for revenge: it’s a tale that has been often told in the movies but never perhaps with as much savage passion as in Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant.
The Production: 4.5/5
Man pitted against the elements for the sake of his survival, his family honor, and for revenge: it’s a tale that has been often told in the movies but never perhaps with as much savage passion as in Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant. An epic story of struggle against a ruthless environment featuring involving, depth-filled performances, stunningly lyrical directorial choices, and awe-inspiring cinematographic views of some of the world’s most glorious sites, The Revenant will stay with you long after its two-and-a-half hour running time has concluded.
Mauled savagely by a bear while serving as a guide to a group of fur trappers in early 19th century America, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) becomes more of a liability to the surviving members of the hunting party than an aid to their survival. Hunted by vengeful Indians who may be around any turn or in any tree, wolf tracker John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) agrees to stay behind with Glass’ son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) and inexperienced trapper Bridger (Will Poulter) to get the injured man back to civilization, but as soon as the party is out of sight, he concocts a scheme to rid himself of the father and son who are likely to get them killed, so he falsely reports on an oncoming attack and buries Glass alive while killing his son thus making their escape from the region, but Glass isn’t quite dead, and through luck and the kindness of a passing Indian Hikuc (Arthur RedCloud), he has a decent chance of surviving the winter and making it back to the fort territory.
Director/co-writer Alejandro G. Inarritu and Mark L. Smith have based their screenplay on the novel by Michael Punke, but it’s a legendary story of a real man which was previously filmed in 1971 as Man in the Wilderness. Their leading character here, however, has been given a son whose senseless murder helps strengthen Glass’ resolve to survive the upcoming hideously demanding ordeal. But director Inarritu has already dazzled us with an Arikara tribal attack on the hunting party, paced breathlessly in continual shots which alternately shock and amaze. Then, he follows this bravura sequence with the bear mauling, unparalleled on the screen in its detailed ferocity and realistic display of raw power and inevitable horror (but just try to look away from the screen; it’s truly majestic in its director’s and actor’s brutal authority). Sequence after sequence presents us with thrilling, soul-shaking suspense: a trek down the rapids, a plunge off a cliff and through a tree, the disemboweling of a horse for shelter, and all of it with a galvanizing actor who uses few words but mounds of body language and facial expressions to convey his emotions. Occasionally, the filmmakers utilize rather conventional flashbacks and fantasy visions of Glass’ former life with his Indian wife now gone but seemingly always in his thoughts, but thankfully these are used sparingly. The film’s otherwise poetic narrative of survival against overwhelming odds, when nature and even occasionally man can offer unexpected solace, isn’t blunted by these more obvious sentimental tricks of the trade. The film’s other intrinsic theme, the white man’s misuse of the land and its resources in its earliest form, doesn’t get quite the push by the writers and director that they may have hoped, the central focus of the survival and revenge story obviously driving viewer interest through the lengthy running time.
The most perfect example of suffering for one’s art that has perhaps ever been put on the screen, Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance, one of few words but of monumental action and reaction, is quite something. He’s certainly commanding from beginning to end with the film’s haunting last images making a firm impression on the viewer. Tom Hardy’s villainous adversary, mercenary to his very core, may not always be intelligible with his hard-to-place accent, but he’s a force of nature on his own and a worthy foil for DiCaprio’s Glass. Will Poulter as the inexperienced Bridger and Domhnall Gleeson as the trappers’ team leader Captain Andrew Henry each have genuinely singular moments to shine and do so quite nicely. Duane Howard as the Arikara Elk Dog, eager to recapture his abducted daughter Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk’o), has quiet authority and a major climactic moment of glory. Forrest Goodluck as Glass’ son Hawk may lack a little in experience, but he does a satisfactory job while Arthur RedCloud is wonderful as the kindhearted Hikuc who is basically responsible for Glass’ ultimate survival.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The Oscar-winning cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki features desaturated color which adds to the setting, mood, and tone of the piece, and it’s very effective. Sharpness is outstanding in its detail, and black levels are as impressive as can be often blending seamlessly into the letterbox bars in the presentation. Contrast has been consistently applied for a reference quality experience. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix presents the Oscar-nominated sound editing and mixing to exceptionally impressive advantage. Directionalized dialogue sometimes pans through the soundstage though much of it is contained in the center channel. Atmospheric effects put the viewer right into the heart of the action with the swirling winds, animal sounds, rushing waters, and thundering waterfalls and avalanches placed masterfully within the wide radius of the speaker array. The music by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and Bryce Dessner likewise gets threaded through the soundstage becoming at-one with the other elements of this reference quality sound design.
Special Features: 2.5/5
A World Unseen (44:04, HD): director Alejandro Inarritu, production designer Jack Fisk, wilderness advisor Clay Landress, costume designer Jacqueline West, and actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Forrest Goodluck, Duane Howard, and Arthur RedCloud discuss their individual journeys in making the film a reality with each of them stressing the film’s environmental message which they hope comes across in the movie.
Photo Gallery: a collection of sixty-nine stills and behind-the-scenes shots can be stepped through manually or automatically.
Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.
A beautifully shot, expertly directed, and marvelously acted paean to human survival against the greatest possible odds, The Revenant is a lengthy but memorable movie-watching experience. Highly recommended!