I can say with confidence that Inarritu’s Birdman has been well and truly beaten by his latest work in The Revenant, at least in my opinion. Although The Revenant tries to heap a great deal of self-importance on its subject matter like its predecessor, it’s more relevant here. “Chivo” Lubezki’s previous wins in cinematography for Gravity and Birdman have not stopped him from shooting another epic picture. The guy is on fire. But you know who else is on fire? Leonardo DiCaprio. Hugh Glass has been through hell and back. Leo channels that unwillingness to give up, braving the harsh marshlands by crawling out of a grave and sleeping in the carcass of a horse. Simply put, he’s been beaten like he’s dirt. With so much time dedicated to chart his rise from the dead, The Revenant teems with the unforgiving forces of nature and man. Shot with a whirling blur of Glass’ corporeal desire to survive at all costs and the surreal visions of painful loss, this is 2015’s most rough and ravishing film.
The scope of Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera movements is something to behold. Whether it be capturing the breaking of the sun’s rays into a bluish sky, or the blaze of a fire in the darknening dusk, or the manouvres of Glass and the bear mauling him, Chivo’s eye for the moment is unmatched. Just like Inarritu’s previous films, Chivo’s shots add an added dimension. It’s experimental but also visceral. After winning the big prize for Gravity and Birdman, I’m tipping him to win it again this year.
Alejandro.G.Inarritu’s film is set in the 1820s where tensions between the French, Red Indians and the Americans make for an uncertain and dangerous terrain. The hunting party which we’re introduced to includes Glass (DiCaprio), Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Captain (Domhnall Gleeson) and fellow huntsman Jim (Will Poulter). They soon encounter a surprise ambush which really sets the film into motion. Even without watching the film, you probably already know about the bear attack scene. But you have to see it to believe. I had my jaw gaping and my fingers clinging on to my clothes. In one of the most extraordinary scenes in cinema, Hugh Glass fights a bear to the death. Glass’ struggle and excruciating expressions say it all;And we’re only just getting started.
After being left for dead, he ressurects from the earth above him with an indescribable thirst for vengeance. Inarritu’s focus is all on the protagonist with short moments for the other narratives and characters at play. I really like that Glass’ struggle and injuries still hinder his movement greatly and there’s a real effort to portray both his mental and physical pain. I suppose one doesn’t simply emerge with the sparkle and radiance of a new man right after a bear attack. Still, I’ll give credit to Inarritu for engaging in his character’s slow and torturous recovery. After all, the film relies solely on one man’s unwavering will to survive. Some people think it’s style doesn’t fit the simple nature of the film’s purpose. I think there’s an even greater need to explore Hugh Glass’ psyche; The film did just that. I really liked the spiritual scenes in the film which help explore the complexities of Glass as a character. These scenes of Glass’ tenderness with his loved ones in a tranquil setting may be contrived, but provides much needed warmth to his character.
I think it’s important to know that this is so much more than charting one man’s course of revenge. It isn’t so much about the end result as it is about the journey. The Revenant is more concerned about the atrocities that Glass has endured than the supposed greater meaning behind it all. And rightly so. Leonardo DiCaprio has completely immersed himself in his role (to the point of eating real bison meat), his character’s suffering transcend in more ways than one. It is in the very essence of the struggle itself that The Revenant seems to take great pride and pleasure in showing, which makes for a unique psychological journey.
I ain’t afraid to die anymore…I’d done it already – Hugh Glass
The production team braved extreme conditions to get the film done. Producers dropped out. Funding was uncertain. And a certain Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu insisted on filming using as much of the natural environment and light as possible. But The Revenant was still made. This doesn’t mean it deserves more credit of course. I simply admire the amount of dedication in making the movie. Did it pay off? That’s something you’ll have to answer for yourself. It’s definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.
Rating: 8.7/10 I’m thoroughly impressed with Leo’s acting. After being nominated for 5 times, this has to be his year. I’m tipping Emmanuel Lubezki to be the strongest contender for any cinematography awards as well. The soundtrack was awesome too.
Images courtesy of New Regency Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Regency, Rat-Pac Dunne, M Productions, appian Way, Anonymous Content and 20th Century Fox.