Alejandro González Iñárritu latest film, The Revenant, is a dramatization about a particular period in the life of legendary American frontiersman Hugh Glass. Based on a novel by Michael Punke, and set in 1823, the film opens with Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) leading Captain Andrew Henry’s (Domhnall Gleeson) men on a hunting expedition. The serene moment is quickly disrupted when the Arikara tribe ambushes the group intent on stealing their pelts. The harrowing attack, which forces Glass, Hawk, Captain Henry and the surviving men to retreat, pales in comparison to the journey Glass endures when a bear attack nearly kills him.
Despite Captain Henry’s instructions to provide the ailing Glass the best possible care, given the harsh conditions, one of Henry’s men, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), in an act of greed and immorality, decides to leave Glass for dead. Unbeknownst to Fitzgerald, however, Glass defies the odds and begins his arduous journey to recovery. Fuelled by his thirst for vengeance, Glass must push his mind and body to the limit if he hopes to survive the harsh and dangerous landscape.
The Revenant’s script by Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith doesn’t contain a lot of dialogue, but uses the minimalist approach to emphasize the pain, grief and longing within Glass. The sparseness of the script allows the visual storytelling to be at the forefront. At times the film does bear similarities to Terrence Malick’s 2005 The New World – and not just because both films feature cinematography work by Emmanuel Lubezki – as manages to find beauty within its rampant brutality. Lubezki’s photography is naturalistic and evokes a grittiness that is rarely seen in period films. Adding to the film’s haunting tone is the score by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and The National’s Bryce Dessner. The strange mix of ambient and orchestral music heightens the dramatic beats, maintaining the sense of suspense throughout.
All these elements are further accentuated by the stunning performances that carry the film. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a career-defining performance that requires him to use every physical attribute in his fiber. Whether he is eating raw meat or stuffing himself into a dead animal carcass, DiCaprio embodies the strife his character endures in a captivating way. Not to be outdone, Tom Hardy is equally strong as the brooding and cunning Fitzgerald. Hardy ensures that the audience both despises and understands the actions of his character, which in itself is quite a feat.
The rest of the film’s cast, which also features appearances from Lukas Haas and Brendan Fletcher as a pair of trappers, Floyd Redcrow as a Native American Glass meets, and Grace Dove as Glass’ wife, all provide strong performances. It should be noted that Forrest Goodluck and Will Poulter, as the young trapper Bridger who is sort of the film’s conscience, also gives fantastic turns in their respective roles.
The Revenant is a tremendous film from Alejandro González Iñárritu that succeeds in brining something new to the western genre. Featuring incredible performances and top-notch work from a technical standpoint, it’s a film that offers an unsettling, but also engrossing, exploration of a man consumed by vengeance.
© thevoid99 2016