Sunday evening was a big night for The Revenant as it won a Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Film and director Alejandro Iñárritu and Leonardo DiCaprio won Best Director and Best Actor respectively. Partially based on Michael Punke’s novel, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, the film depicts the harrowing story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a fur trapper who is left for dead after he is gravely injured.
In addition to DiCaprio, who gives perhaps one of the strongest performances of his career and which is already generating Oscar buzz, the film features a strong turn by Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald, the one man in the trapping group that has no concept of loyalty. Both men are incredibly believable partly due to their physical transformations from suave leading men into disheveled fur trappers. But it is DiCaprio in particular who deserves high marks for his raw and authentic portrayal of Glass.
Although the film tells the story of Glass’ quest for survival and revenge for what is done to his son, it is much more than that as Iñárritu masterfully takes the audience on a brutal yet hauntingly beautiful journey that pits man against man and man against nature. Because it plays such a crucial part in Glass’ story, nature itself could be counted as one of the characters.
Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki delivers visuals that are both spellbinding and realistically tangible. Through movie magic and professional prowess, Lubezki is somehow able to make the audience feel as if they are unseen and silent observers who accompany Glass on his harrowing quest. My college-age son, who saw the film with me, was moved. He said the film “felt like a real life journey…I was thrown off the boat into the frozen chaos, fighting along for my survival with the characters. For a few moments, I completely forgot it was only a movie.”
There are moments of quiet and captivating beauty as the camera pauses on the moon rising into the twilight sky and when sparks from a fire dance into the night. We also witness the terrible power of nature untamed as lowly man is pitted against wind, snow, and raging water.
The Revenant is not for the faint of heart due to its many violent scenes, but the violence does not feel exaggerated or out of place. It is simply a reflection of an era and a place that only the hardiest should venture. This is a grand film that has the power to mesmerize the audience by its portrayal of perfect justice and a father’s love for his son.
Director: Alejandro Iñárritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Damhnall Gleeson.
Screenwriters: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro Iñárritu
Run time: 2 hours 36 minutes
Rated: R for strong frontier combat and violence including gory images, a sexual assault, language and brief nudity.
See upcoming showtimes for The Revenant here.