A Walk on the Wild Side: A review of The Revenant

the revenant

Leonard DiCaprio must win an Oscar for this. It’s about time and he deserves it. His blood, sweat, and tears went into this Film and by the end of it, you feel like you’ve been put through the wringer yourself.

It’s also a very strong performance, it’s rigorous and tough, every movement is effort and every motion hardship. Leo spends the running time grunting through gritted teeth, mud blood and other bodily fluids soaking into his skin, his flesh rotting away as he clings to ever fleck of life he has left.

For better or worse, The Revenant isn’t easy to get through. Luckily it’s more of a pleasure than a pain, despite it’s bloated running time it feels like there are a wealth of riches in every aspect of the Film to appease my tastes and it all holds together on the strength of its leading man.

The story is simple, DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, the leader of a group of fur trappers, braving the wilderness in the new American frontier in the 1820’s, who, after being mauled by a Bear, is left for dead by his mutinous comrade Fitzgerald, Tom Hardy.

A revenge tale and a spiritual journey, The Revenant is a blockbuster art movie, one that has topped the box office for weeks whilst simultaneously receiving heaps of awards buzz.

This is down to the excellent work from DiCaprio, his star power draws in the crowds, his performance keeps them there. Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who previously directed Birdman, does a superb job in drawing restrained performances from his cast and beautiful work from his crew. The problems of the Film lie with him, his excess is at times sluggish, the longueurs feel long and like, Birdman, his metaphors sometimes feel hammered in, like a nail that’s too bent to fit.

Yet, that’s not completely a bad thing, in fact, the Film’s best things are the things that Iñárritu has brought to the screen. The long-held shots, the breathless pace of the set pieces, the beautiful rest of the slow scenes, his problems are also his blessing and as a Director, he has masterfully created something that oozes with atmosphere and symbolism.

As the conductor of the orchestra, his musicians give him exactly what he asks for in impeccable, perfect detail. Emmanuel Lubezki, on duty as cinematographer, crafts shots of artistic beauty, they take your breath away the moment they appear on the screen. The sharp embers of a fire or the delicate grace of falling snow are all captured with a deft hand, the pallet is nature itself and it’s the best-looking nature since Roger Deakins made Sicario something to weep over.

There’s a great sense of the world in the Film, the developing Frontier and the indigenous people who fight for their land, the lives of the men who want for a better life but go with what they are given. It’s an intricate and interesting glance at the developing world and I find the life of the new frontier to be a fascinating, if horrible and obviously painful part of history.

As Glass clings to life, his visions remain potent and meaningful, much like Liam Neeson lost in the wilderness in ‘The Grey’, this is a better version of that, but with a bear instead of wolves and DiCaprio doing the thing again, where he has visions of a dead wife (Shutter Island, Inception).

The score from Ryûichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto is also particularly beautiful and the performances from the likes of Gleeson and Poulter are likable and engaging, with Hardy the growling villain.

Whilst not perfect, it’s length is stodgy and unwelcome and becomes less interesting towards the end, The Revenant is often a beautiful, exciting and engaging journey with Leonardo Dicaprio, who holds the Film together with a magnetic performance that deserves to finally get him that Oscar.

Rating: B+


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