A trapper is left for dead in the wilds of untamed America and seeks his bitter revenge.
The Revenant arrives in cinemas having already earned its own legendary status, particularly for the tales from the set of one of the most harrowing shoots in recent memory, with a ballooning budget and numerous layoffs as well as massive delays in filming. Thankfully the result is worth it.
The latest film by Alejandro G. Iñárritu follows on from the award winning Birdman and is even more of an astounding technical achievement. The director and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki shot at isolated locations in winter using only available light, with just a few hours of potential illumination every day.
And what they managed to capture is absolutely stunning. The locations are vast and the intimate details just as mesmerising, while many long takes and visual tricks serve to ramp up the considerable tension in a number of scenes.
The Revenant may often by breathtakingly beautiful but it’s not an easy film to watch. Iñárritu has a talent for lingering in the most terrible moments to really make the audience feel every visceral emotion, and he puts his cast, and us, through the wringer here.
Most of that weight comes down on star Leonardo DiCaprio, who has openly admitted this was the most demanding shoot of his life. His Hugh Glass suffers terribly throughout the film, starting with a horrifying bear attack which forces us to watch as his body is breached and broken again and again. It’s harrowing stuff, and it’s just the start of a journey filled with danger.
DiCaprio is perhaps the most committed actor working today and he gives every ounce of himself to the character. Whether that’s sputtering wordlessly, crawling on his belly, nearly drowning in freezing water or chewing on raw meat, it’s an incredible acting feat.
Will he win an Oscar? It hardly matters - it’s a towering and captivating performance and one which will stand the test of time, regardless of whether he walks away with a golden statuette. Though he probably should.
One actor who definitely has a chance at that particular award is Tom Hardy, who brings his mumbling to a whole new accent here. He’s muscular as ever and throws himself into the role but I can easily see some of his quieter moments on a reel at the Academy Awards come March.
It’s a technical marvel then and filled with fine performances but The Revenant also has its problems, chiefly that it might be a little too intense. That might seem like a strange criticism but after Hugh Glasses umpteenth injury or issue my response started to veer from horror to a rising tide of giggles.
That may not be where the film takes you but without a doubt the intimate nature of these evils will prove to be too much for some audience members, and maybe my brain chose to escape into comedy.
The Revenant is a unique film on several levels, and it’s unlikely that its sort will be seen again, especially at this budget level. So be sure to see it on the biggest screen you can, so long as you’re feeling up to the ride.