The Revenant: A Review
The Revenant has an intoxicating style which is to be expected from Alejandro González Iñárritu and talented cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, but any true substance is in minimal supply.
Based in part on the 2002 Michael Punke novel of the same name, The Revenant follows the frontier legend of fur-trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio). In 1823, on a hunt for pelts led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domnhall Gleeson) in the northern Louisiana Purchase, a group of trappers are ambushed by Arikara Native Americans.
This initial scene is absolutely breath-taking, and highlights magnificently the type of spectacle that makes a cinema trip for this film a necessity. The camera practically dances around the chaotic battle, jumping between one doomed participant to the next. We follow trappers until they are struck down by arrows, ride next to a Native American until he is blown from his horse by musket fire and dive underwater to witness a drowning in progress.
After a group of trappers escape by boat from the ambush, Glass and his half-Native American son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) attempt to salvage what they can from the expedition but this is quickly jeopardised after – when out hunting – Glass finds himself in the vicinity of a bear and her cubs. Following a devastatingly brutal battle, which is another fantastically shot sequence, Glass is left with dire injuries and soon Henry accepts that the group will not survive if they continue to bring him along.
He leaves the hostile and half-scalped Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and young, inexperienced volunteer Bridger (Will Poulter) to ensure Glass receives a proper burial. Fitzgerald quickly becomes impatient and attempts to kill Glass to quicken the process but ends up murdering Hawk who attempts to intervene. He deceives Bridger about an imminent Native American attack and Glass is left for dead in a shallow grave.
Here is where, as an audience, we expect the true meat of the film to begin, whereas what follows is a dawdling ninety minutes or so to an inevitable showdown. We are treated to a handful more immense moments of spectacle, with a notable moment being another chaotic sequence where we actually follow a horse over the edge of a cliff, plus a sub-plot that follows a group of Native Americans searching for a kidnapped daughter. However, The Revenant never fully justifies its 156 minute runtime.
Iñárritu’s film remains beautiful throughout with almost dreamlike visions giving us some insight into Glass’ psyche and past, but it is incredibly hard to care about his plight when we only hear him speak a dozen or so lines of dialogue.
DiCaprio’s performance does deserve a certain amount of merit, with audience members certainly believing the amount of pain suffered by Glass in the film, but DiCaprio appears quite one-dimensional for the most part which is disappointing.
The other key cast members all turn in wonderful performances with Hardy’s Fitzgerald being the stand out. In fact, a film that followed the Fitzgerald character more closely would have been more intriguing as his character was enticing. Fitzgerald, for the most part is a desperately selfish man, who becomes increasingly more aware that his death is closing in on him and could have amounted in a better exploration of revenge – rather than the well-trodden path we are taken down.
The Revenant is by no means a ‘bad’ film, it is definitely worth seeing in a cinema if only for the serene moments of beauty and epic scenes of action, but viewers should be cautious of the exaggerated lauding by critics and be prepared for a long-stay that will feel tedious in parts.