THE REVENANT (USA/16/156mins)
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson, Forrest Goodluck.
THE PLOT: Fur trader Hugh Glass (Leonardo Di Caprio) is on an expedition in the 1820s when Native Americans attack him and his colleagues. After almost 40 of the company are killed, Glass, Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), Bridger (Will Poulter) and Glass’s half Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) retreat to the mountains to make their way back to the camp. It is there that Glass is attacked and mauled by a bear and although Fitzgerald, Bridger and Hawk are tasked with caring for the obviously dying man, it is not long before he is left for dead and finds a way to survive alone.
THE VERDICT: Just as ‘Birdman’ was an endurance test for actors and audience alike, ‘The Revenant’ follows in director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s style as Glass spends much of the 156 minute running time fighting his way through frozen wasteland to find a way to survive, and the audience endures violent, gory and bloody scenes that are not gratuitous – they always serve a purpose – but are often hard to watch.
Over the past number of years, Leonardo DiCaprio has been knocking on the door of greatness with his roles in ‘Inception’, ‘Shutter Island’ and ‘Django Unchained’, but it is surely his performance in The Revenant that will finally earn him the shiny gold statuette of recognition that he deserves. Although DiCaprio has precious little to say throughout the film, it is his performance that anchors the story; dialogue is not needed to convey the determination and pain the character goes through, it is writ large on DiCaprio’s face. Elsewhere, Tom Hardy is a menacing presence as the cruel and ruthless Fitzgerald, Will Poulter is perhaps the best he has ever been as the naïve but loyal Bridger and Domhnall Gleeson makes up for his campy evil turn in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ with a character whose rage, determination and borderline cruelty are understood and in keeping with the feel of the film.
In terms of story, ‘The Revenant’ is incredibly simple; the extraordinary tale of a man left to die of horrific injuries in hostile territory who somehow makes it through. There is plenty of violence in the film – mostly between the Native Americans and the settlers – but none of this ever feels gratuitous, although it is on the brutal side. Instead, the violence is used to illustrate the tensions between the tribes and nationalities throughout the newly formed colony, as well as the fight for survival in a hostile climate. There also are some great touches made with Leonardo DiCaprio’s character almost having to become as animalistic as the creature that attacked him in order to survive.
As director, Alejandro González Iñárritu has coaxed – or if some on-set stories are to be believed, bullied – wonderful, engaging and heartbreaking performances from his cast. DiCaprio conveys a multitude through breaths, grunts and eye movement, Hardy’s accent is a little chewy from time to time but he always makes his character’s cruelty understood and Will Poulter’s naïve but well meaning character rounds out the central trio and brings some balance to the film. The film, like ‘Birdman’, is beautifully, fluidly and engagingly shot, with Emmanuel Lubezki’s stunning cinematography giving the film a dreamlike (or nightmare like) quality.
In all, ‘The Revenant’ is not an easy film to watch; it is brutal, gory and cruel, but the story is so engaging, so beautifully shot as to draw the audience in, and Leonardo DiCaprio ably carries the film on his injured shoulders with barely a word spoken. The final act of the film feels a little long and underlines the 156 minute running time, but The Revenant is a startling, engaging and powerful piece of work overall.
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Revenant
Review by Brogen Hayes
  • filmbuff2011

    Wild production stories about Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s startling new film The Revenant have almost overshadowed the film itself. Before audiences can be immersed in this highly cinematic period piece, they’ve heard of stories about a shoot conducted in -40c conditions, actor Leonardo DiCaprio going full Method by eating a bison liver even though he’s a vegetarian, the film going way over budget and production crew dropping like flies due to Inarritu’s temperamental and uncompromising nature. It’s been worth it though, for The Revenant is undoubtedly a stunner.

    In 1823, fur trapper Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is part of an expedition into the frozen landscapes of the Louisiana Purchase, which is occupied by hostile Native Americans who don’t take too kindly to their bear furs being taken by white men. Lead by Captain Andrew (Domhnall Gleeson), the expedition is attacked by a group of Native Americans. Hugh acts quickly and urges an evacuation, saving the lives of many of his fellow hunters. During the escape, Hugh is viciously mauled by a bear and suffers life-threatening injuries. Captain Andrew and the surviving men try to keep Hugh alive as they return to civilisation. But it becomes increasingly obvious that they can’t get him over the difficult terrain. Captain Andrew orders Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Bridger (Will Poulter) and Hugh’s half-breed son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) to stay behind and see that he gets a decent burial when he dies. But in a moment of cowardice, Fitzgerald and Bridger abandon Hugh and leave him for dead. Thus begins a brutal fight for survival, as Hugh struggles to survive against other hunters, Native American tribes and the cold, icy grip of nature…

    Inspired by true events and with a title that alludes to a visible ghost or animated corpse that returns from the grave to terrorise the living, The Revenant is a truly remarkable piece of filmmaking. Whatever the crazy production stories, it’s all there onscreen. For this is a film that is truly immersive, far more so than gimmicky 3D. The commitment to shooting in remote, windswept, wintry US, Canadian and Argentinian locations is the first thing that really impresses. You can literally feel the cold seeping from the screen, whether that it’s in the icicles on DiCaprio’s beard or the frozen rivers that he has to wade through. DiCaprio breathes on the camera at several points and it’s also spattered with blood and water – not taking you out of the film but putting you right in it. With luminous, crisp cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (surely worthy of an Oscar) and a consistently surprising, inventive score by Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai and Ryuichi Sakamoto, this is a film that should be seen on the big screen for the full experience.

    The commitment by the actors goes beyond Oscar-baiting attempts and into full-blown immersion to get to the meat of their characters. DiCaprio, frequently an under-rated but consistently reliable actor, gives what should be regarded as a career-best performance. Whereas playing Jordan Belfort was a talky, showy role, here he strips back on the dialogue and instead goes for a very physical, raw performance. The story of how Hugh Glass survived against the odds is a remarkable one and DiCaprio does an excellent job of keeping his character’s dire predicament realistic and relatable at all times. This is a very primal film, tapping into the core instincts of self-preservation, survival and revenge. Hardy, Gleeson and Poulter are also very good in increasingly desperate situations which push their characters to the limit.

    The Revenant is very much in keeping with Inarritu’s work so far – it has the cinematic sweep and style of Babel, the hard-hitting emotional weight of 21 Grams and the in-your-face acting heft of Birdman. But it also feels distinctly different and very visceral – another shade of Inarritu’s driven determination to mark himself out as one of contemporary cinema’s finest directors. It’s not likely you’ll forget The Revenant in a hurry. It may just be the best film of 2016 – and we’re only two weeks in. Magnificent. *****

  • emerb

    “The Revenant”, is a biographical revenge thriller skillfully directed by Mexican Alejandro G. Iñárritu (his follow-up to last year’s Academy Award-winning “Birdman”). Based on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel of the same name, the film is set in the inhospitable world of America in the early 1800s and follows the true life story of explorer and fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) who has been hired as a guide by an expedition of hunters. Glass barely survives an ambush by Native Americans, but still manages to lead a handful of survivors to
    safety along with his beloved Pawnee son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). Soon after, however, he is attacked by a bear and the horrific encounter leaves him mauled, mutilated, immobile and barely coherent, clinging to life. Though still alive, the torn-up man is considered beyond help so Captain Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) tasks Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and a young trapper named Bridger (Will Poulter) with staying behind on deathwatch and following through with a proper burial. The mercenary Fitzgerald has other plans, though, abandoning Glass with a terrible act of betrayal which gives our enraged hero the will to live and trudge through a treacherous winter until he can exact his vengeance. This means he must trek over 200 miles through the rugged and uncharted Western frontier to return to his men, specifically those who betrayed him. Glass’ struggle to survive occupies the core of the story and it’s both compelling and harrowing to watch. With broken bones, no food, and miles to go, he pulls himself through the wintry wilderness, seeking the man who killed his son. Having come as close to death as one possibly can, he is barely alive but is unwilling to give in until justice
    is done.

    DiCaprio’s raw performance as a man struggling to survive in the wild is what really makes this movie and helps elevate what could have been just another Old West man v nature survival-and-revenge tale. Obscured by heavy animal skins, a scruffy beard and long hair, DiCaprio is barely recognisable but perseveres with a deeply committed characterization and one of the most brutally exhausting performances of all time. He drags his body across icy terrain and rivers, falls off a cliff, freezes in a blizzard, sleeps in a horse carcass and eats raw fish he catches straight out of the water. But, he will continue onwards and will not die. He may be hoarse, battered and broken but he is kept alive by one thought — avenging himself on the man who left him for dead. DiCaprio’s performance is an
    astonishing testament to his commitment to a role. Here he can’t rely on the charm and swagger that have been his signature in movies like “The Wolf Of Wall Street” and “The Great Gatsby”. This performance is largely devoid of words but the agony is evident from his heavy breathing, cries, torn skin, blood, gasps and painful grunts and moans.
    The minimal supporting cast is uniformly terrific too. It’s nice to see Domhnall Gleeson having such an incredible year and he seems at home in his role as the expedition leader Captain Henry. Hardy creates a genuinely disturbing and thoroughly despicable character with the ill-tempered and murderous John Fitzgerald, whose primary trait is untrustworthiness and Poulter is good as the earnest young Jim Bridger. But this is DiCaprio’s film, for large swathes of the film it’s him on his own and he is totally convincing in every frame. He literally throws
    himself into this character and it demands more of him physically than any other before.

    “The Revenant” looks to be a major player at awards season, especially considering that Iñárritu just won Oscars for directing, co-writing and co-producing Best Picture winner “Birdman”. With the top-notch cast and critical buzz, expectations will be high. Because of the savagery of some of the storytelling, however, “The Revenant” may be a hard sell for some viewers but I can still see solid commercial success. There is plenty of Best Actor buzz for DiCaprio and I hope he finally gets recognised. If not, he really should get a special award for sheer endurance. As expected, cinematographer Emmanuel
    Lubezki captures the bleak wilderness and the stark, brutal imagery in a way that leaves the viewer awed and chilled and these feelings are further elevated by the atmospheric and gloomy score by Ryuichi Sakamoto which is effectively
    ominous and grim. “The Revenant” is a superb and powerful film, an unforgiving, visceral, bloody, brutal and sensationally vivid tale of survival and vengeance but a must see. It’s not the easiest film to watch and you may walk out of it exhausted but you will be highly impressed and a little more grateful for your cosy bed!

  • Joseph McCarthy

    Leonardo di Caprio delivers a powerhouse performance as a tracker out for revenge after being left for dead by the hunting party he was guiding though the wilderness.