Movies like The Revenant don't come along very often because they are so hard to create. To film an epic western in the wilderness of Canada and Argentina is kind of insane because the conditions always vary and it is brutal on the cast, crew and equipment. The production took nine months to complete and went above and beyond its initial budget. The rough terrain made it slow going and the massive set ups required countless hours of rehearsals and planning. However, the backbreaking work has given us one of the most beautiful looking films of the last 10 years.
The following post breaks down why The Revenant is the most ambitious film of 2015.
1. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu had a vision and he stopped at nothing to create it.
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu had a very specific vision for The Revenant and he did everything in his power to make it as beautiful as possible. In an interview with Variety he talked about his filming process.
“It was planned this way, to be little-by-little jewel moments; that’s the way I designed the production. That was both to create intensity in these moments, as well as the climate conditions. We are shooting in such remote far-away locations that, by the time we arrive and have to return, we have already spent 40% of the day. But those locations are so gorgeous and so powerful, they look like they have never been touched by a human being, and that’s what I needed. The light is very reduced here in winter, and we are not shooting with any electrical lighting, just natural light. And every single scene is so difficult — emotionally, technically. I’ve gotten myself in trouble again, but I’m trying my best.”
I love that an award-winning director is willing to get in above his head in an effort to create something new and exciting.
2. Leonardo DiCaprio was 100% committed to the role.
Very rarely do you see an actor so willing to get down and dirty for their art. DiCaprio crawls, falls and spits his way through one death defying situation to the next. While watching the film you wonder why he didn't get incredibly sick or suffer from some sort of gross disease. He channeled Christian Bale (The Machinist), Tom Hanks (Cast Away) and Adrien Brody (The Pianist) in his quest to create a believable performance.
What I loved most was his attitude towards the grueling shoot. Here is what he had to say in an interview with Yahoo:
The truth is that I knew what I was getting into. This was a film that had been floating around for quite some time, but nobody was crazy enough to really take this on, simply because of the logistics of where we needed to shoot and the amount of work and rehearsal that would have to be done to achieve Alejandro and [cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki] vision. They’re very specific about their shots and what they want to achieve, and that — compounded with the fact that we were in an all-natural environment, succumbing to whatever nature gave us — was something that became more of a profoundly intense chapter of our lives than we ever thought it was going to be.
3. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is absolutely beautiful
I don't think people realize just how hard it was to shoot The Revenant. The amount of long shots and dangerous camera work needs to be admired. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman, Gravity) is brilliant behind the camera and the way he is able to the capture the beauty of the wilderness and insanity of the action scenes is unparalleled. Lubezki works wonders with a Steadicam and the way he can capture action is unparalleled. There are shots in this film that will take your breath away.
Watch the trailer and you will know what I mean. Also take a look at Lubezki's behind the scenes photos.
4. The shoot was called "a living hell" but the harsh conditions aided greatly to the look of the film
The harsh conditions and barren landscapes felt completely alien and I love how they contributed to the overall hopelessness of The Revenant. There are moments when the ground and surroundings look virtually untouched and foreign. I have no clue how they got the gear where it needed to be but I will say whoever did can be proud of their work.
Iñarritu refused to use green screens and his insistence on natural light created a beautiful movie. The stunt men went through hell and it got to the point where they could only shoot a few hours each day. I love that they couldn't find snow in Canada so they packed up the production and moved to Argentina. In an effort to achieve a singular vision, the film went above and beyond its initial budget and suffered massive staff changeover.
It wasn't easy but Iñarritu raised the bar by seeing his vision through to completion.
5. The action set pieces are unrivaled.
Aside from Mad Max: Fury Road you won't see more visceral and exciting action in 2015. From the opening attack to the final fight you will be on the edge of your seat because of how dangerous it all seems.
The scene that is being talked about the most is the bear attack involving DiCaprio and a protective mother bear. It hurts to watch and it is incredibly realistic. You know in your head that it isn't real but DiCaprio and Innaritu were so committed to realism that they put their bodies on the line. DiCaprio had this to say about the bear attack.
I’m not going to give any specifics on how we did it — you’ll figure it out on your own. But I will tell you it involved cables, it involved me flying around the forest, and it involved a tremendous amount of rehearsal. And it was pretty agonizing to do. [Those scenes] — amongst many other sequences — were some of the more difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my entire career. But the end result is going to be one of the most immersive experiences audiences will ever have with what it would be like to come face-to-face with an animal of that magnitude that is incredibly primal. It is absolutely startling and shocking, and it is the closest thing to documentary filmmaking — but in a completely stylized way that a lot of people never experienced.
Make sure to catch The Revenant in theaters on December 25th, 2015!