The Wild Ones

The Revenant

revenant_ver2

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Lukas Haas, Paul Anderson

According to the Oxford Dictionary, Revenant means a person who has returned supposedly from the dead.

According Oscar winning Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant has a far deeper mythical connotation. After the success of Birdman, Inarritu follows up that whimsical taste of Broadway with a gruelling historical epic, The Revenant casting two of the best leading actors in contemporary cinema: Leonardo di Caprio and Tom Hardy.

The Revenant is a harsh masculine film, set in the American wilderness in 1823, the early years of settler exploration along the Missouri river near the Canadian border. Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant takes on a slightly Terence Malick feel in the first hour, but then the audience is thrust into a bitter tale of survival about a group of men who are not only attacked by roaming Pawnee Indians but by the neighbouring French.

DiCaprio plays a bearded and mostly silent yet skillful tracker Hugh Glass in one of his best performances for years. DiCaprio’s role is so grueling and utterly physical that is completely opposite to anything done by the actor before which makes it all the more engrossing to watch. His previous roles in The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street focused on characters that were debauched and surrounded by lavish wealth and power.

In The Revenant, this is DiCaprio laid bare both physically and psychologically as he battles the most hostile terrain in the icy parts of North America. In probably the best scene of the film, Glass is viciously attacked by a grizzly bear and severely injured, the filming of this scene deserves an Oscar in itself. Glass is left for dead by the half-scalped hunter and dangerous John Fitzgerald, in a career best performance by Tom Hardy who manages to permeate all his scenes with the same chilling sense of menace as he did, playing Bane in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and most recently as both the Kray twins in Legend.

The tension between the two men is palpable although Hardy is the one with the most lines, while Di Caprio expresses his pain with his eyes and body, an entirely physical ordeal, a gut-wrenching soul destroying battle for survival. The environment too has own character as these two men not only battle each other but also have to survive in a semi-explored icy landscape, where settlers and native American Indians are bartering and killing each other in a continuous bloodthirsty war over land, occupation and women.

Ethnographically, The Revenant is an important film, a vivid tale about the early American settlers who encounter the other, or the savages as the French call them. A primal battle which Inarritu elevates to myth, beautifully capturing the essence of the unforgiving yet stunning landscape, while emphasizes the terrain’s nefarious creatures and events, from vicious bears to avalanches.

At two and a half hours long The Revenant is not easy viewing and, the viewer does get a sense that the second act drags a little, yet the performances are so captivating and the sound editing so brilliant, that any minor criticisms can be forgiven. Warning: this is not an easy film to watch.

The Revenant is violent, gory and at times just plain cruel, but also sets the standard high for revenge themed adventure tales. Hardy and DiCaprio are both utterly terrific. The Revenant is a highly recommended and critically acclaimed film sure to attract a cult following.

Cinematically, The Revenant is nothing short of a masterpiece.

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