Review of “The Revenant” – The Amazing Evolution of Leonardo!
“The Revenant” is a super movie with an epic dimension. There is a sense of wonder in the way Alejandro G Iñárritu displays the vast, beautiful and treacherous Dakota Territory in his fabulous film. The film, shot in natural light, evokes a sense of wonder as you intensely feel the virgin and unexplored land of 1820 America. The film is about male mountain men of the time who traveled beyond the league of human civilization!
Iñárritu borrows the story of the legendary American hero Hugh Glass, the daring explorer and devil hunter who, on one of his expeditions with his band of fur hunters, is attacked by a grizzly bear. The hunter becomes hunted, as his own men wound him to death and abandon him. The glass is left to die in the midst of brutal mountainous terrain with freezing cold. The three companions await his death.
However, the director transmutes this fable into a survival Odyssey and gives it epic stature. Indeed, it is Leonardo DiCaprio who could do justice to the role of the beleaguered Glass with his stellar performance. Although the actor has already shown off his brilliant portrayal of different character nuances in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond, and The Wolf in the Wall Street, nothing, so far, can match the originality he’s displayed in playing the role of Glass with his visceral acting style that the movie demanded!
It is the only saga of a man who crawls through a ruthless terrain of endless mountains and tall conifers with his sheer force of will. Therefore, the performance demands perfect body language to convey the anguish and the resolve to fight to fulfill the mission of revenge. He undertakes unthinkable trials to set out on the long journey through the ruthless landscape! He has made a promise to himself and is to settle accounts with Fitzerald. The latter is a dangerous man who is responsible for betraying Glass and blatantly murdering her only son!
Leonardo’s roles in his previous films have been quite eloquent. Here we are faced with a silent man who transmits the pains of his enormous physical sufferings and torments of the soul! The moans and grunts of the mortally wounded frontier man practically crawling out of his grave create a remarkable déjà vu! This man meets the reality of his loved ones only in his haunting dreams of a troubled past. The sight of his late wife seems to whisper the wisdom of survival in his ears. In terms of filmmaking, Iñárritu makes a great transition from the usual revenge themes shown in other films of the same genre. His introduction of the trend-setting “visceral acting style” matches Leonardo’s performance in the film so naturally!
After the initial dance of death in the scene of the bloody war between the native Indians and the white fur traders, the impact of the film is enormously physical because it tries to portray an uncompromising realism where the protagonist’s physical and mental agony reaches a life and death crisis! The question of the survival and revenge of the protagonist struck in the midst of unforgiving nature is the central concern of “The Revenant.” Nature looks so sinister and beautiful in the movie! However, the theme of the film is not only about the brutality of nature against the indomitable spirit of man, but also about his spiritual journey. Glass strives to overcome bodily pain to commit to its cause.
Leonardo suffers for his commitment to the “art of acting.” Given the extreme circumstances, DiCaprio slices open a dead horse, pulling out its bloody insides to snuggle up for warmth inside the corpse, clutching the meat around it! Apply fire to his throat to heal his festering wounds. You can even go to the extreme of chewing raw bison liver or raw fish for a living. In fact, it has to be an existential journey. So the whole team had to shoot below 25 degrees in real places – the snowy terrain of Argentina and Canada!
Audiences are mesmerized by the stunning cinematography of Lubezki, Iñárritu’s longtime partner who creates magical effects with his camera while concentrating on nature. We are visually drawn across the vast white landscape; the rapids and mighty mountain rivers; the treacherous rock ledges; sunlight glinting off menacing icicles and violent ambushes in superbly timed long shots through snowy forests, plains, air, and water. The scenes leave a profound impact even long after the movie ends!
Lastly, we see a glimpse of the human side of Glass’s rugged exterior as she identifies with the native girl who is about to be savagely raped and thus becomes her savior. Such humanity has been poignantly hinted at when the face of his half-dead native son sears his soul. So the movie is also a historical saga of the colonization of the Red Indians by white men. Above all, it is a movie that delves into sin and resurrection!