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Movie Review: “The Revenant”



Set in the American wilderness, “The Revenant” follows a fur-trapping expedition, led by Captain Henry (Domnhall Gleeson, “Ex Machina,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”), on its way back to base camp after suffering a surprise attack by a Native American tribe. Along the way, guidesman and fur-trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio, “Inception,” “The Great Gatsby”), who has a Native American son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) is attacked by a bear and sustains life-threatening injuries that prevent him from continuing on the trip. Unable to wait for Glass' recovery, Captain Henry orders two people to stay behind. With a sizable payment attached to the offer, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises”) and the young Jim Bridger (Will Poulter, “We’re the Millers,” “The Maze Runner”) volunteer, joining Hawk in caring for the crippled Glass.

Worrying for his son’s safety and imminent attack by Native Americans, Glass agrees to let Fitzgerald kill him. But before Fitzgerald can finish the job, Hawk sees what’s going on and attacks Fitzgerald. In a short struggle, Fitzgerald kills Hawk in front of Glass. To cover his tracks, however, Fitzgerald hides Hawk’s body and coerces Bridger to flee the scene. The remainder of the film follows Glass and his journey to recovery and avenge his son’s death.

In a quasi-silent role, DiCaprio seamlessly communicates his emotions through his eyes and breath. Assembling every element of the body and soul, DiCaprio delivers an unforgettable performance as the leader of the expedition.

While DiCaprio stands out as an experienced, brilliant actor, the remainder of the crew follows his lead and delivers outstanding performances. Hardy goes beyond playing a simple villain: he instead transforms Fitzgerald into a complex character, just as determined and driven by his emotions as Glass. Gleeson and Poulter also showcase their skills with well-rounded and intense performances.

The  film’s cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and director Alejandro González Iñárritu also deserve praise for their work behind the screen. “The Revenant” was shot solely in natural light and includes long-takes - uninterrupted shots - built around epic landscapes. Whether it is of forests, mountains, rivers, or snow, the visuals are simply breathtaking.  

Iñárritu masterfully navigates the audience through the scenery, never losing contact with the connection to the characters. The camera translates into images the physical and internal journey of the characters. The rhythm of the film closely mirrors that of music and dance, expressed visually not spoken, thus creating a transcendental experience for the audience.

Overall, “The Revenant,” which premiered in limited movie theaters in December, did everything right and deserves its Oscar nomination as one of the best motion pictures of the year. Iñárritu delivered an immensely ambitious movie, with unique takes, exceptional performances, original writing and fantastic score. Even with some violent sequences, the film is mesmerizing and will linger in audience’s memories long after leaving the movie theater.

Grade: A+

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