Film Review: The Revenant


By John Rocker

Films can be put into several categories. Some can be mindless entertainment that allows viewers to turn off their brains and have some fun, some can be well crafted stories with intriguing characters and some can be technical works of art. The Revenant fits under this last category.

The story takes place in the early 1800s and follows a group of fur traders in that are forced to return back to base after being attacked by a group of Native Americans. On the return trip, the group’s guide Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is mauled by a bear and barely hangs on to life.

One member of Glass’s group, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) kills Glass’s son, Hawke, and manages to get the group to leave Glass for dead. The story follows Glass as he tries to survive the harsh winter wilderness, recover from his injuries, and find his way back to Fitzgerald to avenge Hawke’s death. The journey for Glass is a tough one, with elements of nature working against him and the group of Native

Americans following closely behind him, Glass will do what it takes to return. The performances in this film were solid, especially DiCaprio’s. For a good portion of the film, DiCaprio doesn’t talk much, so it’s up to him to make the character of

Glass to feel the pain that he has suffered, and DiCaprio conveys said pain well. Tom Hardy’s performance is also something worth mentioning. Fitzgerald may come off as a bad character, but like Glass, he’s just doing to survive. These character’s actions represent a duality in life.

There’s the slower and perhaps more difficult way of handling situations, which is represented by Glass and then there’s the quick and easy way, which ultimately could lead to backlash, represented by Fitzgerald.

As mentioned earlier, this film is a technical masterpiece. What some may not know is that this film was shot entirely in natural light, so the only sources were either the sun or flames from a fire. The natural lighting gives the film a sense of realism and it gives the film a sense of immersion. The way that these shots were handled is impressive and some of the views that were shown were visually breathtaking. If you’ve seen

Birdman, you may remember that the film gives the illusion that the film is one continuous shot. That effect isn’t in The Revenant, but there are a lot of long shots.

There’s a shot during the beginning when the Native American’s are raiding the fur traders when the camera follows different people as they are maneuvering through the battlefield. It’s one of the many impressive shots in this film. There is also a stylized look to the film, particularly in the close ups. There were a lot of low angle shots looking up at the characters faces rather than being level with them. These shots were also very close to the character’s faces and the depth of field was very narrow. These shots added another layer of style to the film that the natural lighting already had brought to the style, and it was great seeing a filmmaker such as Alejandro Iñárritu be so ambitious with the technicalities.

Another thing to mention about this film is the violence. It felt very raw and added more realism into what was already a very realistic looking film. The makeup of the bear scratches and bite marks were also well done. During the fight scenes (Including the bear scene), there is no music at all. It allowed the viewers to focus what was happening on screen and it kept the viewer’s attention.

The run time for this film is 156 minutes long and the pacing is a little bit slow at times. If you’re interested in seeing this film, it’s a commitment, but it should be worth the price of admission. Everything else in the film is phenomenal and with the Oscar’s coming up, this film will definitely be mentioned. Go see it, and maybe you’ll agree that The Revenant is something worthy of Oscar buzz. Recommendation: Go see it this weekend.


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