4 stars
“I aint afraid to die any more. I done it already.”
The Revenant, directed by the Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman - Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance), is set along the Missouri River in the 1820s. It depicts the relentless fight for survival by a man in conditions that sorely test the human body and spirit and it will have you gripping your seat, mesmerised for all its 156 minutes. This is cinema at its finest and by the end of the session you’ll feel as exhausted as the actors were - it was all shot on location in the snowy vastness of Canada and Argentina, without the aid of computer generated images. Of his decision to shoot this way Iñárritu said "If we ended up in greenscreen with coffee and everybody having a good time, everybody will be happy, but most likely the film would be a piece of shit." It was a brave decision and some crew members couldn’t hack it, walking off the job, but it’s paid off in spades.

Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio – The Great Gatsby) is a frontiersman and guide travelling with a group of men trapping beaver for their furs; he is accompanied by his Native American mixed race son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). After Glass is attacked by a bear (in a long scene which is one of the scariest you are likely to see on screen), he is in a very vulnerable state, hovering on the brink of death. Little wonder! Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson – In The Heart Of The Sea) is in charge of the group and he makes the decision to leave Glass with a trio of men, including Hawk, led by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy – Locke), who will give him a Christian burial when his time comes. When the men leave him for dead after only a day or two has passed, Glass sets out to wreak revenge against those who had given up on him. It’s a miraculous feat of resilience and endurance.

The country is shrouded in snow and there is a continual threat from a ferocious tribe of Native Americans searching for their chief’s daughter who has been kidnapped by a group of white men. The tribe is better prepared than the trappers, as this is their country and they know the terrain and how to survive in the extreme conditions. Glass has to find his way back to the fort which is miles down river, in temperatures of -25c, and he’s not in good health. Over many days and nights he has to plunge in and out of icy rivers, eat raw Bison liver for sustenance and even sleep in a dead horse’s carcass, while avoiding the tribe’s lethal arrows. When asked why he sought to bring such an adventure to the silver screen, Iñárritu said he wanted to discover “what drives a person to survive in the harshest of conditions?” The Revenant is without doubt a fine answer to this question.

Heading a stellar cast, DiCaprio is definitely in line for an Oscar nomination. On-screen for much of the time, he is utterly convincing as a man fighting the elements. Tom Hardy proves once again what a chameleon he is in his role as the bad guy, even if his drawl is almost indecipherable. Goodluck is convincing in his small part (he and DiCaprio speak in the language of his tribe) and Will Poulter (The Maze Runner) is terrific as a young man whose principles are put to the test when he falls under the malevolent influence of Hardy’s character. He makes you think about all those men throughout history who have been bullied into taking violent action when it is clearly against their consciences to do so. Double Oscar-winner Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is simply breathtaking from the opening scene to the last - at one moment DiCaprio breathes onto his lens, somehow including the viewer in the ‘horror’ of the situation rather than pushing him away. Brilliant! Ryûichi Sakamoto created the extraordinary, ethereal score, with help from The National's Bryce Dessner and German composer Carsten Nicolai, and it’s performed by the Berlin-based collective/25-piece orchestra s t a r g a z e. I predict that both the score and the cinematography will get Oscar noms, too.

Don’t miss this violent, tragic tale but be warned, any preconceived opinion you hold of bears being cuddly, furry creatures will be completely overturned. Those paws are a force to be reckoned with!


Previewed at Hoyts EQ, Sydney on 11 December 2015

Leonardo DiCaprio
Tom Hardy
Domhnall Gleeson
Paul Anderson
Will Poulter
Forrest Goodluck

Alejandro González Iñárritu

Alejandro González Iñárritu



156 minutes

January 7, 2016
The Revenant (2015) on IMDb
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