The Revenant, 2015, USA
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy & Domhnall Gleeson
"I ain't afraid to die anymore. I'd done it already."
Leonardo DiCaprio gives a raw, animalistic and courageous performance...that will soon be reduced to a "can I has oscar now" meme by internet culture.
The world depicted in 'The Revenant' is not one of heroes or villains, but one of survivors who have to resort extreme measures to guarantee them another day on earth. Alejandro González Iñárritu throws you into an environment of unflinching violence and viscerally assaults all your sentences with early action sequences that are bloody, grotesque, shocking and give the viewer a strong indication of what is to come.
'The Revenant' re-teams Iñárritu with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, after their Academy Award winning success with 'Birdman' and once again it results in astounding prosperity. Lubezki employees the "single take" style that he has just about perfected at this point, although it is not utilized to the extremity like in 'Birdman', and in doing so he puts us into the wilderness with these characters who are clawing for survival, and thus their plight resonates with us more because we are there with them, in the freezing cold, in the dirt and mud, in the harsh landscape that sees every breath as a victory. The battle scenes are extraordinarily filmed, physical confrontations are devoid of fanfare and polish and instead are bloody, gritty brawls. With his work on this film, Lubezki yet again proves himself as a visionary of his field and might just be on his way to picking up a third consecutive Academy Award.
Then there is a bear attack scene. The scene is as awe-inspiring as it has been made out to be, a truly terrifying and intense sequence that genuinely had me pondering whether or not DiCaprio was sharing the screen with a real life bear, that's how good it is. Possibly the best cinematic moment of 2015.
Iñárritu can be a divisive filmmaker. He wears his heart on his sleeve and approaches his themes in an unapologetic manner, and that's where he can allienate some of his viewers. If you had a hard time getting invested in his previous films, then you will most likely struggle with 'The Revenant' because it's Iñárritu turned up to 11. Despite featuring one of Hollywood's most bankable stars and potentially being a big box office draw, Iñárritu does alter his style to accommodate cinema-goers, which is great because it keeps his integrity as an artist in tact, but I could also see leading to some disappointment and backlash from some viewers.
One of my biggest gripes in films is when i feel like themes such as faith and spirituality are disingenuously being inserted into films, and unfortunately I felt this way with this film. Preferably, I would have rather 'The Revenant' keep it a little more simple with it's approach and simply be the tale of a man who will push the limits of his body to gain retribution from those who wronged him, but the film adds a layer of faith and religion that fell flat for me, personally. It's kind of a testament to the filmmaking and craftsmanship that I was so tantalised by, which allowed me to like the film as much as I did, regardless of these issues, which would have been more of a detriment for any less of a film.
In his Golden Globes acceptance speech last year, Michael Keaton said to Alejandro González Iñárritu that "there's not an actor in this room that won't show up for your next gig" and that may be so as his next project attracted the talents of Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo is one of the finest actors of his generation, turning in performance after performance of powerhouse and versatile showings that have seen him become one of cinemas most reliable talents. With 'The Revenant', DiCaprio gives a performance unlike any that he has given before, it's raw, animalistic, gutsy, brave, tenacious and courageous, full of desperation, vitriol, heart and aggression, that will most likely see him win first Academy Award and put that woefully unfunny and redundant meme to bed for good.
Equally as impressive as DiCaprio is Tom Hardy. It's always wonderful to me when an actor I genuinely like plays a character that I detest, their likability usually shines through and you don't hate the character as much as you should because of your sentiments toward the actor playing it, that's not the case with Hardy in this film, I hated this character and I love Hardy for making me do so. Hardy continues his rise as one of the most prominent and rising stars today with another compelling showing. That man is completely unhinged and I mean that in the best way.
'The Revenant' is a triumphant experience of unadulterated cinema. It's a bloody and raw piece of work that is expertly shot, finely crafted and excellently performed.