By Christian DiMartino
“Revenge is a dish better served cold.”
That line popped into my mind quite a bit as I… Hmm, let’s say, EXPERIENCED Alejandro G. Inarritu’s latest masterpiece, The Revenant, and it stuck with me the entire time as I watched Leonardo DiCaprio trek his way through the freezing mountains of a place I couldn’t determine. Seems random, but it stayed with me. Kind of like the film itself.
The Revenant, for all its brutality and grit, is a gorgeous masterpiece of a film, and is definitely the best made film of the year. Inarritu, who just picked three Oscars last year for Birdman (I’m still overjoyed about that by the way), has made a much different film… And a slightly better one. If you ask me, he should pick up a few more.
Alright, so where do I begin? The film is inspired by a true story, so there’s no telling just how factual it is. But I want to believe. What I do know is that it’s based off of a book by the same name, and a book that I must read.
It opens with a group of frontiersmen, led by Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) as travel through the woods. Next thing you know, they are ambushed by a Native American tribe. Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), a fellow frontiersman, tells them to retreat to the boat. The violence in this scene is a wonder to behold. Not in a long time has violence felt this realistic.
Before I proceed, allow me to mention that Glass has a Native American son named Hawk, who is also a part of the group. The mother is absent. The fate of Glass’ wife is explained through flashbacks throughout.
Henry knows that Glass, though not in charge, is kind of a big deal. He knows that the group would probably be doomed without him. Hence why this next part isn’t so easy to take in.
One morning, while Hugh is wandering through the woods, he is mauled by a bear. Chances are you have heard about this scene, and after you see it, you won’t soon forget it. I have no idea how they pulled this scene off, but it’s a brilliant balancing act of visual effects and cinematography… And of course, Mr. DiCaprio.
Mauled, but not dead, Glass is soon discovered by his group. They carry him for a bit until they can’t anymore, and figuring that he won’t last much longer, Henry leaves Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and a young lad named Jim (Will Poulter), along with Hawk, to stay with Glass until he finally bites the dust. Here’s the thing: Fitzgerald hates Glass, and this is where the real story kicks in.
Fitzgerald, growing impatient, kills Hawk, while Glass watches, and then buries Glass, and leaves him for dead. So not long after, Glass crawls his way out of the ditch, and soon begins his quest through the wilderness in search of vengeance.
Now, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about this film, saying it’s a slog and what not. I admit that it can feel a little exhausting, and even I felt as if I was raped by a bear. But by the end, you’re certainly rewarded. The cinematography alone is worth the price of admission, and I haven’t even gotten warmed up yet.
But yes, the cinematography. Emmanuel Lubezki has won two Oscars in a row for his work on Gravity and Birdman, and will definitely win another here. The bear scene alone is enough, but also the way that the camera immerses you into the action the whole time, the way that Lubezki captures the beauty of the wilderness, and of course, the fact that it was filmed using natural light. It’s beautiful. It makes even the most grotesque moments gorgeous to behold.
The film is also just a complete thrill from start to finish, and every single element at play here feels real, whether it’s the violence or just the overall atmosphere. This couldn’t have been an easy film to make, and effort truly shows. It’s marvelous.
Now, I know what you all want to know: How is DiCaprio? Let me tell you, my good people: this is certainly among his best performances, and it is definitely, or hopefully, going to give him that damn Oscar. It is definitely unlike anything he’s given us before, and he has given us so much already. He is a man of few words here, but yet this is the kind of performance in which actions speak louder than words. His devotion to this role is at times frightening. It’s one you can’t shake off easy.
Hardy should also be in the conversation as the villainous Fitzgerald. His performance might not be as showy as DiCaprio’s, but it is nonetheless terrific. I’m glad he’s kept up the good work.
The Revenant might not be an easy movie to watch, but it is nonetheless amazing. I will stop talking about it, because it’s a film that truly just needs to be experienced for yourself. I put off releasing my Best of the Year list so then I could see this film, and I’m glad I waited. It might not be the most fun I had at the movies in 2015, but it is the years best film. That is all.