Four out of Five Kernels
“The Revenant” takes a horrifying experience and turns it into a stunning and mesmerizing film, despite the pain and gore.
If there was ever a movie character to feel sorry for, it’s Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio). Glass is just out in the woods, working for a fur-trading company, minding his own business when he gets viciously mauled by a bear. And that’s only the beginning. He’s then abandoned and buried alive and somehow finds the determination to stay alive.
Perhaps I didn’t make his predicament clear enough. Glass is alone in the woods after being mauled, he can’t walk, he has no weapon, it’s the middle of winter and everything from the elements to the animals to the people he encounters are all trying to kill him.
It’s so incredibly painful to watch, but so, so, so, incredibly gripping. You can’t stop watching and willing Glass to survive no matter what gets thrown at him.
And DiCaprio’s captivating performance is what keeps the film plugging along. Considering DiCaprio spends most of the movie near death, unable to speak and with no one to speak to, it says a lot of his acting ability. At no point do you doubt the authenticity, the struggle and the grit of Glass, which is driven home with every grunt and gasp DiCaprio makes.
But what really makes this film soar is its magnificent cinematography. “The Revenant” does more than just take pretty shots of the landscape. Much like director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu did in his previous film, “Birdman,” he uses long takes and point-of-view shots. This makes you feel like you’re not just watching the movie, but in it. Characters run around you, you look up into the trees, you hear something behind and you turn around — and the movements feel natural.
It doesn’t stop there. The camera makes you feel a part of the action and close to the characters. Lots of directors use close-up shots, but combined with the point-of-view filmmaking, you feel even closer. The character’s faces and eyes allow you to see and feel their emotions, especially in the case of Glass. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg — when characters breathe out and the camera fogs up, it makes you feel as though you’re there and the warm exhale is hitting your face.
Although the cinematography is absolutely beautiful, it doesn’t always show pretty things. Remember, this story only starts with getting attacked by a bear. Glass has to do a lot of dirty, bloody things in order to survive. Most of them don’t look nice on screen, and Innaritu isn’t going to turn the camera to save your stomach.
Watching someone suffer the way Glass does isn’t always pleasant; you spend a lot of time either cringing in pain or disgust. But you never cringe because of the quality of the film. DiCaprio’s acting, the riveting story and the striking camerawork makes all the agony worth it. It also makes whatever bad day you’ve been having seem not-so-bad in comparison.