The film takes us back in time to the early 19th century and the American frontier, in the areas of Montana and the two Dakotas. Most of the inhabitants are village folk who hunt animals to survive. Around this time most people stay together doing fur expeditions. The one leading this fur expedition is explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who helps Captain Andrew Henry (Domnhall Gleeson) and his group of men as well. Their post is attacked by Arikara Native Americans, pushing back his men. Then things gets worse on their return back to the fort as Glass, the group’s best chance to survive their way back, is brutally wounded.
Henry orders both John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) to look after Glass and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). It doesn’t look good for Glass and the Arikara are still on the hunt, so Fitzgerald decides it’s best finish him off quick. As Bridger is away, Fitzgerald murders Hawk right in front of Glass and leaves him for dead. Glass is far from dead though, as he crawls out of his supposed grave and looks at his deceased son one last time before he goes after the man who killed him. Before he can get his sweet revenge, he must survive the savage terrain of the wilderness, as well as the Arikara tribe still hunting him as he journeys back to camp.
This film is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu who is coming off a huge Oscar win for 2014’s Birdman. Just like Birdman, Iñárritu makes sure his leading man is giving it his all and it sure looks like Leonardo DiCaprio is giving one hell of a performance as Hugh Glass. DiCaprio shows us a man surviving from eating raw bison to learning how to walk again. He is mostly on screen alone, but his grueling physical performance is the one to watch just as much as DiCaprio himself. It’s very likely because of this powerful performance that DiCaprio could take home Oscar gold. Tom Hardy also gives a terrific performance as John Fitzgerald in the film. His mean and selfish attitude shows the audience people like him existed in the 19th century. Standout performances are Will Poulter and Domnhall Gleeson as supporting cast.
The direction of the film is one of the biggest highlights of the film. Unlike Iñárritu's past films, he has now stretched out scenes and sequences, thanks to the help of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, similar to fellow filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón. The single-take sequences lend to the frantic pace of the film. From the ice landscapes, to the set design and the intense action, Iñárritu gives us something worth watching. Iñárritu could be looking at a back to back Oscar win for best direction in the coming weeks.
The script is just as powerful as the direction and is written by Mark L. Smith (The Hole, Vacancy) and Iñárritu. Each part of the script is basically bringing Glass from one dangerous stop to the next. The writing isn’t just about the dialogue either, despite Hardy, Poulter and Gleeson all having great lines. Both Smith and Iñárritu wanted to change bits of Michael Punke’s novel to give an artistic vibe to the violence throughout.
Overall, The Revenant is an amazing directorial piece of film-making in its true form and one of the best films of the year. It is certainly one of the most brutal and the most grueling films to come out in the last few years. This film perfectly fits the art-house audience just as much as the die-hard, bloody, survivor audience. It may be lengthy, but It’s worth everyone’s time.