The weather was unbearable, the budget was overblown, crew members quit, and the lead actor was asked to go to insane lengths for the role...but my God, was it all worth it.
"The Revenant" is a tale of bloody revenge through Inarritu & Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki's gorgeous visual eyes. What the cast and crew of Revenant were able to achieve is nothing short of glorious. With every shot, every composition you can feel the incredible effort that was put into the making of Hugh Glass's journey of vengeance.
Taking place in the American Frontier, tracker Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is horribly injured and scared during a bear mauling. When his company of pelt hunters leave him in the care of the unpredictable Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), he murders Glass's bi-racial (half Native American) son, his only connection to humanity, and leaves Glass for dead.
The following becomes both Glass's physical journey to find Fitzgerald, while at the same time a spiritual journey between life and death. Hardy and DiCaprio make for a great villain versus hero dynamic. Fitzgerald despises the Native Americans for nearly scalping him, and uses his bitter anger as pure hatred for Glass and his kin.
Other great supporting performances from Domhnall Gleeson and rising start Will Poulter round out the talented cast. There's no white washing here either, Inarritu goes to great lengths to keep the film historically accurate, portraying the Native Americans in a realistic and honest portrayal.
Most criticisms of the film have been on its predictable story, but I argue its predictability isn't a focal point of the film.
Aside from being based on a true story, The Revenant isn't the type of film that hinges on the tension of its plot. It plays out more like a tone poem, or the classic art house/midnight movie pictures of the 70's and 80s.
Much inspiration was clearly drawn from the films of Alejandro Jodowosky. A live bird emerges from the open wound of a newly dead body, mountains of sculls are viewed in surrealist dreams, and the constant themes of life, death, and resurrection play out as well.
To really talk down or point out flaws to this film I personally feel is doing a disservice to the incredible work director Inarritu put into the film. Each shot feels like a masterwork of art. Aside from possibly "Mad Max: Fury Road", it is the only film from 2015 that truly wowed me.
DiCaprio gives one of the best performances of his career, a demanding role in every sense of the word. If this doesn't get nominated for a multitude of Oscars, I've given up all hope for the Academy. The music is on point, the sound design is incredible and the visuals are sure to win Lubezki his record third straight Oscar. It's only flaw, if any, is it's slightly over-long run-time, but it's something the film calls for.
I don't mean to be completely 100% in on this film, but it is the result of what happens when a talented visual director is granted full freedom with a large budget. True this doesn't always pan out; we've gotten our fair share of "Heaven's Gate" and "Waterworld", but I'd put "Revenant" in talks with such films as "Apocalypse Now" and "Citizen Kane."