The Revenant Review: A Dish Best Served Cold

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

The Overview

A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. (Source: IMDB)

The Good

Where do I start? Expectations were incredibly high for this film, and in fact I saw it the same day it was announced that it had received a whopping 12 Academy Award nominations. It was highly unlikely that this wasn’t going to meet my very high expectations, but I’m happy to say it not only met them but far surpassed them, in greater ways than I ever could have expected.

I tweeted this after I saw the film:

I normally write down a couple of immediate thoughts after seeing a film to help me write my review later on, but all I could muster after The Revenant was “bear, blood, Leo, wow”.

It took me a really long time to just fully appreciate how amazing this film was, as there is so much to love. It is without question the most immersive experience I have ever had whilst watching a film, and one which absolutely needs to be seen on the big screen to appreciate fully. The skill of Iñárritu, and the cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, in creating this experience is completely awe-inspiring. Even now I am struggling to comprehend it. They do something so amazing with the camera that you feel everything that you see, and forget you are watching a film. When the weather is harsh and freezing (which it is most of the time), you feel cold, when the characters are struggling for breath in the icy water, you feel like you are drowning with them. This is most apparent in the much talked about bear fight. You feel every slash of the claws, you feel the pain the character is in, and when the bear is so close to the screen that you see it’s breath clouding the glass, you’ll swear that you can feel the heat of it’s breath too.

The sense of realism and immersion is heightened by the fact this film was shot entirely using natural light. This might not be something every cinema goer picks up on, but knowing this fact, makes the film even more impressive. 

This film is absolutely brutal. It is savage, violent, and utterly ruthless, but the way in which this is conveyed, thanks in large part to the flawless cinematography of Lubezki, it is utterly beautiful. The stark contrast between the unbearably bleak subject matter and the beautiful way this is shown is completely breathtaking. Iñárritu’s trademark single takes and long shots are used to great effect. The single takes in particular, where in Birdman it was slightly kitsch and gimmicky, in The Revenant it really serves it’s purpose. In the battle scene towards the beginning, you go from one character to the other, you follow the killer to the victim, before whirling round to follow another character in a fast paced, thrilling sequence. It is relentless, and completely mesmerising. I have no idea how Iñárritu achieved this, but that doesn’t matter, he does and it is amazing.

Prepare for the internet to break guys, Leonardo DiCaprio is going to win the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar, and there is absolutely no one else who deserves to win it. The performance he gives in this film, with barely any dialogue, is not just the best I have seen from DiCaprio, but one of the best performances I have seen from any actor. Many people will talk about just how much he threw himself into this role, and how gruelling it was, but all the credit should go to him for just how amazingly well he is able to convey this character through not much more than his face, eyes and physical performance. The supporting cast are also incredible, particularly Tom Hardy. I could have done with some subtitles, but once again Hardy proves he is one of the most exciting actors around at the moment, and is incredibly watchable.

Testament to how amazing this film is, is the fact that there is so much to love about it, that there was still something I missed and then realised in hindsight. I was so involved in the film that I barely noticed how beautiful the score was, and it was only when I listened afterwards that I thought “wow”! In fact I am listening to it again now as I type this review, and it is stirring up all those feelings I had when I was watching this movie. It is subtle and used sparingly, but utterly beautiful.

The Bad

Honestly, there is nothing bad about this movie! I could take or leave the dream sequences, but I understand they were there for character development, and the whole film is so beautiful to look at, I wouldn’t really want to take anything away from it!

The Verdict

I saw this movie and you should too. If you see one movie this year, make it this one. I really don’t want to give away much more of the story, because I believe it is absolutely something you should go into knowing as little as possible. Just believe me when I say it completely deserves all the hype. Movies like this do not come around very often, and I feel utterly privileged that I was able to see it. Turns out my poor attempt at writing something intelligent immediately after I saw this, actually offers a pretty good summary: “bear, blood, Leo, wow”.

Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well.

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