ByMark Varley, writer at
Watches films, writes about them, watches them again, tweets about them
Mark Varley

Plot: Left for dead in the aftermath of a brutal bear attack, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) vows revenge against despicable John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).

Taken as a whole The Revenant is a gorgeous visual feast. Shot after shot of extraordinary landscapes capture the majesty of the American wilderness - the beauty and the violence that encapsulates it. In The Revenant violence towards animals and man's inhumanity to man is a meditation on unspoiled nature that surrounds. Birdman director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu explores this theme with an unflinching eye.

Wildlife is often lingered on and asks for our respect in the light of disturbance. When Leonardo Di Caprio's Hugh Glass wonders across bear cubs playing innocently, it's only natural that mother bear reacts as she does. What's fascinating about the following attack is the bear's behaviour. She almost seems confused by her ferocity and pauses twice to sniff and lick her threat. Hugh Glass is a new threat to this bear, a symbol of our post Columbian take over of Western lands. In a sequence likely to go down as one of cinema's all time greats, Glass is thrown, torn and clawed within an inch of his life.

What follows is a one man survivalist test. I love this kind of drama. Cast Away and to an extent The Grey are great examples where thrills are born from watching how one person can survive the harshest conditions. Leonardo Di Caprio goes through the wringer here. His survival methods are cinematically audacious but not entirely thrilling. The Revenant's solemn atmosphere and moody score grind the fun intentionally, favouring realism over cheap thrills. The Revenant won't be for everyone and will surely go down as an audience divider. Many will also feel the ending is abrupt but I felt its ambiguity was necessary to the story.

By far the most impressive feat here is Emmanuel Lubezki's incredible cinematography. Long takes are breathtaking in their choreography and fully immerse you into the bitterly cold wilderness. Moments like the grizzly bear's hot breath clouding the camera or the climatic dual between Glass and Fitzgerald are captured in spectacular fashion. Many shots of animal wildlife and landscapes have to be seen to be believed. I would pay good money for a book that contains the images captured for this film. It's beautiful stuff and worth the price of admission alone.

The Revenant isn't without flaws but visceral filmmaking on this scale is too rare to miss. See it on the big screen.


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