Review: The Revenant

The Christmas/New Year period is generally the time for big films. It’s surprising therefore that the newest Star Wars incarnation opted to open a few weeks beforehand – usually a sign of fear or fallibility on a studio’s behalf that their pic will lose out against its competitors, although surely not in this instance. Rather, any…

The Christmas/New Year period is generally the time for big films. It’s surprising therefore that the newest Star Wars incarnation opted to open a few weeks beforehand – usually a sign of fear or fallibility on a studio’s behalf that their pic will lose out against its competitors, although surely not in this instance.

Rather, any film opening in the massive wake of 
The Force Awakens is more likely to be utterly overshadowed. Not so The Revenant. Following the critical success of Birdman, director Alejandro González Iñárritu has created an intensely visceral, immaculately crafted and visually stunning work.

Set in the early 19th century American frontier and with a screenplay based on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel of the same name, The Revenant tells the story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man who as the film’s title implies, returns from a death of sorts.

The brutal reality of the conditions Glass and his fellow fur trappers face don’t just include the icy weather, the extreme geography and the wildlife, but also the Native Americans who attack ferociously early on and remain a relentless and threatening presence thereafter. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki capture every scene in astonishing fashion.

Directors following the usual rules of filmmaking might cutaway for the sake of economy whereas Iñárritu unflinchingly confronts the action in its entirety, taking his fluid lens as up close to his committed cast as is possible.

I don’t recall a film in which I was so aware of an actor’s face, his sweat, spit, breath and blood as in
The Revenant. You can almost see into 
the multitude of flesh wounds Glass has incurred and into his increasingly anguished soul.

It’s that core of his being that is on show here, so that through the minimal dialogue, his grunts and grimaces, a central premise that is either simplistic or possibly spiritually profound, we witness his sheer will to survive.

Rated MA. The Revenant opens on Thursday, January 7

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