Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant ★★★★★


‘Revenge is in God’s hands, not mine.’

GRIZZLY, gritty, gruesome…and utterly brilliant, Iñárritu’s ‘The Revenant’ breaks both geographic and cinematic boundaries as we dive into the depths of the human spirit, uncovering an awesomely violent will to survive.

Based on Michael Punke’s 2002 book accounting the life of American fur trapper Hugh Glass, Iñárritu’s film is testament to a tightly written script, savagely beautiful set locations, merciless direction and impeccable acting.

The film perfectly balances a basic plot on the surface with complex cinematography and an underlying spiritual theme that pervades throughout. The simplistic nature of the plot actually functions as one that is both familiar and satisfying – a tale of revenge and retribution on two fronts. Firstly we have the Pawnee’s sub-plot following their attempts to rescue the chief’s daughter from the insidiousness of the Western fur trappers; a plot immediately established by the ferocity of an arrow fired and splitting into a fur trapper’s eye. The overwhelmingly violent theme is set. Secondly, we have Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he travels through fire, water and snow to chop the fingers off his betrayer (Tom Hardy) in what can be deemed one of the most immersive, sensory and brutal brawls to be depicted on the screen.

This is not a film for the faint of heart. Nor is it a film for those wanting a complex and intellectually stimulating plot. Instead this is a film that breaks cinematic boundaries through the lens. Natural lighting, 360 degree point-of-view shots circling the protagonists like a crow, foreboding more misfortune, betrayal and outright gore – Iñárritu’s film is one that creates a nauseatic effect leaving the audience physically and emotionally drained upon leaving. It strips down the film to the absolute basics, but then creates a film that will set a precedent for future cinema to follow. The beautiful and savage shots of the natural world fit into a global, current theme of environmentalism, reminding us of the incredible set we live on. The emotional turmoil that Hugh Glass goes through to avenge his murdered son reminds us just how much the human body and mind can endure. And the impeccable acting reminds us just how much Leo deserved that oscar.

This time there is no dialogue for DiCaprio to boastfully dominate – the film focuses on his face, his emotion and his scarily real pain. It was probably the first time both DiCaprio and Hugh Glass ate bison liver, slept in a dead horse, and swam in sub-zero degree waters. Each scene is made ever more intense by DiCaprio, playing upon a vulnerability that hasn’t been as obvious in his other characters. Cynics pose the question ‘did Leo deserve the oscar for this film, or was it just time that he won an oscar?’ To answer: both. DiCaprio has played many varied roles from the hero to the villain to the comedian – this film and this role provided him with an opportunity to fully showcase his acting ability and versatility with barely any dialogue, working with a basic plot and transforming it into a tense-ridden, thrilling narrative. It was his time to win an oscar.

The film had 12 oscar nominations and 3 wins including best director, best actor and best achievement in cinematography. Overall, this film had 150 award nominations. The Revenant is cinema at its finest, from the soundtrack to the cinematography to the direction to the acting.

The Revenant, if nothing else, demonstrates that cinema has not stagnated – it is constantly developing and evolving. Iñárritu’s work will go down in history as creating a new wave of film making.


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