The Revenant
A Must Watch

Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Writer - Director

Mark L Smith

Movie Review
The Revenant:Auteurism at its Best



Screenplay by: Mark L. Smith and Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Directed by: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Written by Mark L. Smith and Alejandro G.Iñárritu, this film is based in part on Michael Punke’s novel, ‘The Revenant’, and centers on an 1823 Frontier legend whose core is rooted in revenge.

Set in the freezing Northern Plains, 19th century fur-trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is viciously mauled by a bear, and his crew arrives to find him on the brink of death. John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the film’s antagonist, argues that Glass’ injured condition will only slow down their effort to escape the “Injuns,” and that they should end his suffering by killing him.

Played to delicious perfection, Hardy’s Fitzgerald is a man to whom the ends justify the means: a mercenary who would be damned if he didn’t pull out all the stops in exchange for cold, hard cash. Driven by greed and self-preservation, but also by a warped logic and turbulent past, Fitz would rather live rich than not live at all.

Other characters include Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), a gullible, well-meaning youth; Captain Henry (Domnhall Gleeson), who is, for the most part, driven by honour; and Glass’ willful but devoted half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). Overall, Casting (Michelle Allen) has been a meticulous and worthwhile effort.

The obligatory ‘calm before the storm’ at the outset of this film barely lasts a few minutes, before all hell breaks loose. A surprise Arikara tribe attack launches a beautifully choreographed battle scene (Scott Ateah) that flows at an incredibly immersive pace, ensuring that viewers are not simply watching the film: instead, one quickly becomes part of this spectacular journey.

Soon after, a heart-stopping CGI sequence (Lee McNair, Illia Afanasiev) skyrockets Iñárritu’s storytelling to another level altogether when Glass encounters an enraged mother bear (a motion-captured Glenn Ennis). The powerful brutality of the grizzly’s wrath is astonishing, and the scene is jarringly realistic. By the time his companions finally find him, this savage attack has all but driven our protagonist to death’s door, and the crew is forced to abandon a heartrendingly protesting Glass to an unforgiving winter.

DiCaprio’s piercing screams are distressingly tragic as we watch him undergo sheer misery at the brutal hands of both nature and his fellow man. We witness him survive a bear attack, a waterfall, being buried alive, falling from a cliff, angry Arikara tribesmen, his nemesis Fitzgerald, and, not to mention, starvation and hypothermia, all while he swims, limps, and crawls over 200 miles to his destination. Hell must have frozen over, because Hugh Glass is most certainly in it.

While DiCaprio conveys intense anger, pain and waning hope with penetrating sincerity and minimal dialogue, the entire crew comes together to deliver this incredibly visual story with a fevered authenticity that prompts viewers to wonder which parts of the film are real, and which can be attributed to remarkable production design (Jack Fisk), editing (Stephen Mirrione), special effects (David Benediktson), and art direction (Laurel Bergman). Costume design (Jacqueline West) and makeup (Siân Grigg) evolve to reflect Glass’ healing process, making The Revenant an incredibly detailed film, right down to DiCaprio’s ever-frosted beard and crooked, yellowed teeth.

Having directed, co-written, and co-produced this film, Iñárritu stands out as the true auteur of this visual masterpiece. A craftsman who has successfully produced a cinematically transcendent piece of art, Iñárritu was famously adamant at avoiding greenscreen and filming only in natural light to produce such results. Where the director functions as the film’s foundation and DiCaprio serves as its beating heart, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki gives it much of its substance with breathtaking, immersive imagery: snow-caked forests, frozen lakes and dramatic pale skylines contrast beautifully against the stark crimson of Glass’ macabre wounds, while pictorial metaphors of rebirth and reawakening abound throughout the film. While The Revenant’s cinematic style is sometimes reminiscent of Tarkovsky, this is undeniably an Iñárritu film, and it is worth mentioning that he, Lubezki, and DiCaprio won the Academy Awards for their respective categories.

During this captivating journey, one can sense the fear, torment, and almost savage fortitude glowing within the eyes of a grief-stricken DiCaprio. Audiences watch in horror as this outspoken vegetarian devours raw bison liver and fish, crawls for miles with a bear-fur pelt that weighed over 100 pounds when wet, and risks hypothermia in below-freezing temperatures. This is not just a personal best for the actor, but rather, this is a performance that raises the bar for an entire generation of actors.

However, viewers should know that this isn’t just a misery-fest during which a very resilient Leonardo DiCaprio experiences what is quite frankly his worst winter ever. Deeper motifs emerge crystal clear in this bone-chilling survival tale as the time-old story of the 'white man' coming to rape, pillage and steal from the Native American takes shape through Glass’ brutal trials. Religious themes and racial tensions run deep within the film, and lines such as: “Shoot some civilization into the Arikara,” highlight this cultural conflict. The musical score further enhances these aspects (Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bryce Dessner, Alva Noto) through a varied ensemble of impeccably realised compositions.

While mostly limited in terms of dialogue, when characters do speak, it is deeply moving. Lines such as: “I ain’t afraid to die any more… I done it already,” and “They don’t hear the sound of your voice… They just see the colour of your face,” are both haunting as well as fitting as they underline contrasting themes.

The Revenant is an unrestrained, viscerally realistic orchestra that skillfully juxtaposes Glass’ bleeding red against an unforgiving Tundra white, the story’s easy comprehensibility with its auteur’s elaborate imagination, and the consistent undercurrent of the Native American versus Caucasian theme, granting the movie depth and nuance in spite of its seemingly basic storyline. It is the simple tale of a man driven to almost maddening lengths in his wild embodiment of humankind’s most primal emotions: fervent hope, savage perseverance, and bloody vengeance.

   Tina Mohandas

Tina Mohandas is a songwriter, musician, tattoo artist, vintage motorcycle collector, and animal rights activist. Having conducted several successful events in London, she is the founder of Inferno Events in India, and co-founder of Bikerhood India. Currently writing her debut fantasy/sci-fi novel, she hopes one day to free every caged animal in the world..

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