The Revenant is a Triumph

Leo and Oscars and Bears, Oh My!


Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together and make some noise because the moment has arrived that Leonardo Dicaprio will finally win his long awaited Oscar! Don’t believe me? Go watch Academy Award Winning director of masterpieces like Birdman and 21 Grams, Alejandro G. Iñarritú’s newest gut-wrenching drama, The Revenant. Leo’s got this one in the bag.


The Revenant, loosely inspired by true events and Michael Punke’s 2002 book of the same name, tells the story of nineteenth century fur trapper and American frontier explorer Hugh Glass (played by Dicaprio). Historically, Glass was attacked by a bear and left for dead by his group of fellow explorers, but inexplicably managed to survive the damage on his own in the cold wilderness and eventually catch up to his group, as if returning from death, earning the title of revenant. In the film, Glass is also attacked by a bear, but a villain -imagined by screenwriters Iñarritú and Mark Smith – John Fitzgerald (played wonderfully and with an extremely convincing accent by Tom Hardy) kills Glass’s part Native American son Hawk and leaves Glass for dead, causing Glass to seek revenge. Obviously the screenwriters had to take a few liberties with the story to give Glass more motivation and make his character feel more human, but it pays off in many ways.


Iñarritu also once again teams up with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who won Oscars in 2014 and 2015 for his work on Gravity and Birdman, respectively, and has a very good chance at a three-peat this year. The camerawork on this film is absolutely stunning. Many have said the ambitious endless-shots Lubetski created for Birdman were just training wheels for his work on The Revenant, and boy were they right. Towards the beginning of the film, Lubetski really gets to show off his chops in a few tracking shots during a gory battle scene between Glass’s band of explorers and a local tribe of Native Americans. The camera ducks around trees, goes above and underwater, zooms in and out, and pans back and forth, giving the audience the opportunity to become one of the explorers, experiencing the chaos and running for their life. There are several more beautiful tracking shots throughout the film.


And, of course, I have to talk about the scene where Glass gets mauled by the bear, you know, the one Jonah Hill made fun of at the Golden Globes. It left me breathless. The use of CGI effects to make the bear look so realistic, combined with Lubetski’s camera work and Leonardo Dicaprio’s ability to act out being so violently attacked made it one of the best scenes of the year and allows the film to become one of cinema’s landmark achievements. Be warned, however, that the scene itself, while incredible, is very gory and may be hard for some to watch.


Additionally, the film was shot only using natural light, making everything so much more incredible to look at. Iñarritu does such an amazing job with the light nature provides, and he delivers a particularly amazing scene which takes place at night in the woods, lit only by the torches of explorers.


The film itself is extremely long and will definitely bore some more than others, with its running time clocking at nearly three hours, and as much as I appreciated The Revenant I can acknowledge that some of it probably could have been taken out. At the same time, so much happens. With almost no spoken lines, Leonardo Dicaprio delivers a performance with such grace that truly proves the pretty boy from Titanic has matured so much as an actor. If not for Iñarritu’s ambitious but outstanding directing or Emmanuel Lubezki trailblazing cinematography, watch The Revenant for one-on-one time with Leo in the woods. The Revenant will go down in history as the movie where Leonardo Dicaprio gets attacked by a bear and the movie where Leonardo Dicaprio actually ate raw bison meat and slept inside a dead horse. That’s what you call devotion folks. While I don’t personally think it is his all time greatest performance, it is definitely the most Oscar-deserving for all of Dicaprio’s rigorous work to go into the method. Allow me to clarify, I will yell at my tv out of rage if he doesn’t win an Oscar for this movie.


In light of the recent death of British actor Allan Rickman, known for his roles as Snape in the Harry Potter franchise and as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, I was able to see Tom Hardy’s performance in another light. Hardy will likely get much less credit for his performance than Leo when it comes down to awards and politics, but I think it’s safe to say that the performances match each other in quality and complement each other rather well. Hugh Glass’s persistance to survive and avenge the death of his son is balanced by Fitzgerald’s inherent racism, selfishness, and personal hatred for glass which cause him to do evil things time and time again. Tom Hardy managed to create one of the most wicked villains in recent cinematic history, which is saying a lot. I hold John Fitzgerald and Hardy’s ability to bring him to life in the same high regard which I hold characters like Hans Gruber, Darth Vader and HAL9000 in. I will go as far as to say that John Fitzgerald was the best villain of 2015 (keeping Kylo Ren in mind), and Tom Hardy delivered one of the year’s strongest performances.


The entire cast and crew deserves recognition as well for putting together The Revenant in such quick time and under such harsh conditions. It was known to be one of the most difficult film sets to work on of all time, with Iñarritú insisting on filming in chronological order and global warming forcing them to move set from Canada to Argentina two thirds through filming, resulting in a budget of $135 million dollars. Some of the actors had to go through hell. Will Poulter had to be dunked under ice cold water multiple times, and it was during a tracking shot, so he had to do it over and over again until everyone involved got it right! Every actor and crew member involved had to work in unbearable cold conditions, sometimes in the water and at night.


Readers beware, The Revenant was probably as difficult to film as it will be for some people to watch. It’s a masterpiece but it is brutal. I already mentioned the unbearable bear scene but there are also extremely gory battle scenes, a bloody duel that is very intimate for viewers, and violence and blood all over the place. Many people have reportedly left theatres because they couldn’t handle the film. If you couldn’t handle the arm in 127 Hours you cannot handle The Revenant. So whatever you do, watch at your own risk.
The Revenant, Alejandro Iñarritú’s immediate follow up to his best-picture-winner Birdman is a gory, intricate masterpiece. It absolutely needs to land Leonardo Dicaprio his long-awaited and very deserved Oscar. The direction and cinematography are masterful and the images created in the near-three-hour film are breathtaking. The Revenant is a cinematic gem and a landmark for the lone-survivor genre.