The Revenant might be the movie that brings Leo the Oscar. And I’m not even kidding around. This movie is a serious contender for Best Actor and Best Cinematography. Directed by Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu who you might know from Birdman, Babel or Biutiful, the movie gives the audience a cold, visceral view of the frontier America during the 1820s.
The story itself is one of revenge and survival, but it doesn’t really take the central role in this particular movie. What steals the show is the cinematography, the makeup and the unsurmountable obstacles a man must face to cheat death.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays the role of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who was attacked by a bear in the wilderness and left for dead by his fellow Americans. Hugh had a son, conceived with a native woman – and that brings the hate and disrespect of most of his crew. On his death bed, Hugh witnesses the murder of his child and cannot die peacefully.
That’s why he raises from the grave and follows the man responsible like a ghost, until he can get revenge for this injustice. This evil man that kills Hugh’s son is played by Tom Hardy, another high caliber actor who delivers a ruthless, outstanding performance in this movie.
As I was saying before, there are a couple of things that will probably stand out for you while watching this movie.
First of all, the scenery. Frontier America is a cold land, full of frozen water, mud, disease, blood and death. This is one of the few movies that actually made me feel really cold, even though I was in a warm room while I was watching it. The imagery is amazing in portraying the harsh environment these men had to face during those times and also represents a metaphor for the constant injustice and corruption in the world of men.
Secondly, the makeup, the costumes and the effects are more than fitting. Characters wear torn clothes, bear pelts to keep them warm, they slice and dice animals, eat their raw meet when they fear starvation in the wilderness. In this desolate land, man turns to beast in an outstanding effort to survive. The Revenant’s makeup and effects will shock you. You will see realistic scars, blood and guts, you will see misery and horror so real that it’s menacing.
Thirdly, the way this movie was shot is a breath of fresh air and a stamp of originality. The camera does a weird almost fish-eye kind of effect, following the characters really close at times, intimately catching their actions and expressions. In the action scenes, the camera turns and shifts so that the audience never loses any great moments from the battlefield. That’s not to say that in the more reflective scenes or interludes there is no air to breathe. On the contrary, that’s when the camera goes back, way back and lets us all see the frozen landscapes, making us realize how small and puny we are.
There are also several haunting dream sequences that Hugh witnesses. From a pyramid of skulls, to a ruined church with a deaf bell and a falling, flaming comet, this movie’s surreal imagery takes hold of the viewer and shows him how life is at the edge, at the border between life and death.
Leo’s performance is outstanding. It’s remarkable how this actor can portrait so many characters with so different backgrounds: from the gentleman of The Great Gatsby, to the maniac sales guy in the Wolf of Wall Street and now the vengeful brute of The Revenant. More so, in most parts of this movie Leo is a one man show. Besides the effects, he makes all the scenes believable and grounds them in reality. The bear attack scene is by far one of the best executed I have ever seen: even though you know its CGI, it really feels that the bear is actually there, biting poor Leo to death. Also, taking into account how many cold rivers and frozen slopes Leo had to run into in this movie, I’m actually surprised he didn’t catch a pneumonia or something.
Finally, the pacing is somewhat uneven and might be a bit hard to follow at times because It shifts from action, to survival and reflective moments so often. It is a movie that requests your full attention if you wish to catch all of its offerings. So no texting while watching this movie, alright?
All in all, The Revenant is a terrific movie, full of beautiful imagery and outstanding, visceral effects. Leo and Hardy make everything you see heavy and grounded in reality, and the moral questions this movie brings to the table might have you questioning your own self.