Where to begin?
Well, first off I should say I watched this film p*rated, and I kind of regret it. A film as brilliant as this should be either bought or seen in movie theaters, and I plan on reliving my reaction to this movie again and again.
This film is based on the true story of legendary fur trapper Hugh Glass, so it's set around the 1820s. After I watched the film, I went on Wikipedia to read about Hugh Glass's story and, of course, some, if not most of the main plots of the film were tweaked for the viewer's entertainment. Now I'm not complaining because there is so much beauty that overshadows the fact or fiction part of the story.
What Alejandro, the director, does so well with this film is the incorporation of nature. This is perhaps the binding element in all aspects of the major and minor plots of the film. Alejandro dedicates a good amount of time between each heavy-hitting action sequences to some shots of the sky, the trees, and the rivers. Through this incorporation, not only is there a perfect balance of order and chaos, but also an obvious nod the Native American culture. One thing that is illustrated through the nature shots is the idea that nature is a force to be reckoned with, a sort of The Call of the Wild-eque.
In addition, Alejandro embodies the chaos of the action sequences by perfecting the camera angles. For example, when someone or something is attacked, ninety percent of the time you will never see where it came from. What this does for the viewer is that it confuses them, which is key because then the viewer can place himself in the characters' perspective. That right there, ladies and gentlemen, is brilliance at its finest. The ability to reel in the audience and have them lose themselves in a surreal environment is what every director aspires for, and Alejandro achieved that.
Now this is where I have to keep it short and simple and cannot delve as much into because I would have to spoil some things. I want to stray away from using the word generic to describe the plot because that would be an insult, but the story-line wasn't something that was so unique and full of twists and turns is the best way to describe it. At times I had myself asking,"Is the world really this small?" due to the fact that characters would just bump into each others. There were a few other details, but I can't get into them. In conclusion though, the plot for me was indeed the weakest part of the film, but the cinematography, themes, and characters were what made this piece truly unique.
I'll just say it, you won't get the tearful DiCaprio like Will Smith was in Pursuit of Happyness. Now, it's not because of the fact that the characters are in completely different situations, they are, but there are some scenes in which DiCaprio should've put much effort in depicting an emotional man [you will know what scenes I'm talking about]. But in terms of desperation, you can check that off. There is nothing else that's exhilarating than watching a person pushed to his limits physically, mentality, and emotionally, well, next to Charlize Theron's Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. Speaking of Mad Max, I have to give praise to Tom Hardy.
What sets him apart from DiCaprio is how he personifies his character, he doesn't act, he becomes his character. This could simply be he has an un-generic character, but still, still, still...he is perfect in every gesture, expression, and one-liners. Other characters also played their part well, but I do want to note Domhnall Gleeson. I don't know if it was just his character, but every time he tried to put forth anger or confusion or whatever, it was just one act away from being cringe worthy. Furthermore, there were Native American characters present, particularly one that impressed me. Again I won't get into him much, but he's like that one character you hate, sympathize with, then love.
There is much more to talk about, but I want everyone to see the movie simply because you'll witness an artwork that takes a basic plot framework and elevates it by it's abstract innuendo of themes perfectly depicted by balanced sequences, surreal atmosphere, and layered characters. All in all, this is a film that epitomizes what it truly means to be a human amiss our era of 5th-dimension-like technology.