The Revenant (15) is a visually stunning and graphically violent adaptation of the 2002 Michael Burke novel ‘The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge’ based on the life of American frontiersman Hugh Glass in 1823 Louisiana. The film begins with the ambush of Glass (Leonardo Di Caprio) and his hunting party by Arikara Indians, leading to their escape via raft to what they assume to be a safer place. However, an encounter with a bear leaves Glass incapacitated and close to death and when he is left for dead by fellow poacher John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Glass has to find his way back to his hunting party whilst taking revenge on Fitzgerald.
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki make great use of snowy Canadian and Argentinian locations to create an atmospheric 19th Century wilderness filled with treacherous mountainsides, thick forests and destroyed camps that Glass has to traverse on his journey. Inarritu also manages to shoot the film’s action sequences in a clear yet realistic manner that highlights the brutality of conflicts between Native Americans and European settlers without obscuring the action. A good example is the opening battle between Glass’s party and the Arikara, where we see poachers and Indians being killed by tomahawks and guns respectively with few cutaway shots, allowing the audience to see the bloody results of each death. Similarly, Glass being attacked by the bear and his final confrontation with Fitzgerald also benefit from this approach to violence, which helps to underline the severity of each situation.
Di Caprio’s performance as Glass is definitely Oscar-worthy, with the actor not only speaking several lines of dialogue in the Arikara language, but also doing the majority of his own stunts, including the aforementioned bear fight as well as being buried alive. Di Caprio also manages to effectively convey the desperation of Glass as he struggles to maintain his physical and mental health in the wilds of 19th Century Louisiana. Similarly, Hardy shines as the treacherous Fitzgerald, accurately mastering a thick Deep South accent and disappearing completely into the character. In particular, his scenes with younger poacher Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) provide Hardy with perfect opportunities to display Fitzgerald’s menacing but persuasive qualities.
The Revenant is a gripping tale of one man’s fight for survival and vengeance within a harsh, unforgiving landscape. The film features strong performances from the whole cast and is worth seeing at your local cinema.
by Adam Thornton