The Revenant (2015)
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Based on the novel The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke
Screenplay by Mark L. Smith, Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson, Forrest Goodluck
After being severely wounded and left for dead, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is on the hunt for the man who killed his son. Battling some of the harshest terrain on earth, Glass is driven by revenge.
In his follow-up to his Oscar-winning film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams) went in an entirely different direction. This film is based on the novel The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge written by Michael Punke and published in 2002. The screenplay adaptation was completed by Iñárritu alongside Mark L. Smith (Vacancy). The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed) and Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road). Will Poulter (We’re the Millers), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina), and Forrest Goodluck are also featured.
This is a powerful story of revenge set against the harsh winter conditions of South Dakota and Montana. The historical background of the film sets the stage for the epic nature of the story. The writing does a nice job of getting things going quickly, with action that is both intense and realistic. The initial conflict is set up nicely, and uses the personalities of the characters to amp things up. Once the story is moving, the writing does great work telling a story that is not reliant on dialogue. Despite the previous statement, the film does have great dialogue when the moment calls for it. The movie also seeks out a deeper meaning to many of the ideas it tries to express. This can slow things down at times, pushing the run time to 156 minutes. Thankfully slowing things down isn’t always a bad thing. In these slow moments the story seems to find the right ideas or situations to linger on. Overall, this story does a great job getting to the heart of the events.
The acting in this movie is absolutely incredible. Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of the best, if not the best performance of his career. He was asked to do some of the most physical acting imaginable, all the while maintaining the emotional intensity of the story. He handles both ends of this challenge wonderfully. His emotions are constantly on the surface throughout this movie, and it’s incredible to see him portray the inner-struggle of his character. Tom Hardy is also great in this movie. Unlike DiCaprio’s character, Hardy was asked to play one of the more outspoken characters in this movie. He does a great job playing a very harsh and intense character. Like DiCaprio he also seemed to handle the physical and emotional elements of his role with equal skill.
The performances by Will Poulter, Domnhall Gleeson, and Forrest Goodluck are also great in this one. Hardy and DiCaprio weren’t the only ones challenged by the physical and emotional nature of this movie. Throughout the film all of these stars was tasked with a number of challenging moments that really pay off on the big screen. The entire cast seemed to understand the nature of this story and the themes that were being explored. This translates into one of the best collection of performances in 2015.
The visuals are another part of what makes this a great movie. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki captures this movie from up close and from a distance. The movie, like the story, seems to find the right times to reflect on the vast wilderness that the characters are contending with. At other times the camera is right in the middle of the action, bringing the audience up close with the pain and suffering. Lubezki also captures the action with great skill, making this a beautiful film to see.
The movie also features a great score by Carsten Nicolai (Lin) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (Babel). The mix of sounds brings something very simple but elegant to the movie. This helps to enhance the emotional roller coaster that this movie takes the audience on. The movie also features other great aspects including costumes and locations. One of the other highlights is the makeup work done by a very talented collection of artists. As a whole, no detail seemed to have been ignored in the masterful movie.
This is one of those intense movies that might not be for everyone. While it stands as a great example of the power of film making, this is also a very visceral experience. The one issue I have with this movie is the length. There are moments that the movie seems to pause in reflection, which can often feel more lengthy than necessary. This doesn’t do any real harm to the experience, but it does slow the pace throughout the middle of the film. The violence is intense and the suffering is sometimes excruciating to witness. Fans of the stars need to see this one. I would also suggest this to fans of Iñárritu. In many ways I think this will also appeal to fans of auteurs like Terrence Malick. I give this one 4.8 out of 5 stars.