The Revenant (2016)

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Visceral… Onslaught on the senses… Nail-biting… Unforgiving… Brutal… Punishing… Riveting… Chest heavingly breathtaking… Spiritually meditative… Hellishly harrowing… Disconcertingly beautiful. Believe the hype. This is master cinema!

The Revenant feels like it could easily be reduced to the usual revenge thriller platitude, but Alejandro González Iñárritu just loves his big themes – redemption, loyalty, betrayal, survival, loss and revenge. What Iñárritu does so masterfully well here is that he creates a world so real that this is the only world that matters for 2.5 hours. Then he amplifies these themes till they filled the entire canvas. This is no wrong move. Every one is calibrated to hit the right note.

While exploring the uncharted Canadian wilderness in the 1800s, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) sustains terrible injuries from a brutal bear attack. When his hunting team leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, Glass treks through the wintry terrain to track down John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the former friend who betrayed and abandoned him (Inspired by a true story).

Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is fluid, contrasting against the heaviness of the narrative. It feels like Birdman all over again with all the sublime long takes but IMHO he absolutely ups the ante with his hovering and weaving shots drawing you directly into the action. The opening attack scene reminds me so much of the storming of the beaches of Normandy in Saving Private Ryan. It draws you in, making you one of the frontiersmen under siege. There is such a level of realism to the action because Lubezki uses natural lighting in all his shots except for one scene. While my eyes were riveted on the mayhem and madness, I remember feeling a little sad for Roger Deakins’ outstanding work in Sicaro. I have a strong feeling it is not going to be his year again.

Talking about strong feelings, I think Leonardo DiCaprio is almost a shoo-in for Best Actor. If the Academy loves to give the Oscar to long-suffering and tortured soul characters, then DiCaprio deserves at least 3 awards for The Revenant. OMG… The stuff that happens to him… Getting mauled by a bear, left for dead in a grave, having to eat raw nasties to survive… Give him the award already. Not only did DiCaprio bring his A game, so too did Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson and Tom Hardy. The latter fully deserves his Best Supporting Actor nomination. His enthralling portrayal brought an internal logic to his character and I could understand so vividly how he ticks.

As much as the film is about so many things, I also feel it is about nature. This isn’t an ode detailing the awe of Mother Nature but about the danger and no-holds-barred take-no-prisoner nature of it. Nature is treated with the deepest respect and it is constantly fraught with danger from every angle. Nature is definitely one of the stars of the film.

This is a film that above all else has a certain death rattle rhythm to it and Iñárritu’s hold on the proceedings is impeccable. He is the master. To watch misery heaping on misery and pain piling on pain for 2.5 hours do not make for easy viewing but Iñárritu’s command is absolute. This is not a movie for all tastes. In fact this is not a movie. It is an event and you are in good hands.

5 / 5

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